The speaker of this ironic monologue is a modern man who, like many of his kind, feels isolated and incapable of decisive action. Irony is apparent from the title, for this is not a conventional love song. Prufrock would like to speak of love to a woman, but he does not have the nerve. The poem opens with a quoted passage from Dante's Inferno, which means "If I thought that my reply would be to one who would ever return to the world, this flame would stay without further movement; but since none has ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear of infamy." Prufrock through these lines tries to say that he speaks only because he knows no one will pay attention to him and he won't be heard (Critical Analysis of the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock).
From the beginning till the end of the poem, Prufrock uses various phrases which make it very obvious that Prufrock is low-spirited and views life in an extremely negative manner. Early on in the poem, Eliot creates a scene that does not seem very inviting. Prufrock describes his surrounding on an evening out with phrases that insinuate melancholy and depression. For instance, he compares the evening to an anesthetized patient lying on a table, speaks about cheap hotels and sawdust restaurants, and finds the never ending streets similar to deceitful tedious arguments. The overall image of the surrounding presented emphasizes darkness and hopelessness.
Prufrock also has a very negative view about himself. He sees many women are present in the room, but he is unable to gather courage to approach them. In line 38 of the poem, the phrase "Do I dare" reveals the lack of self-confidence in Prufrock. He thinks that it is time for him to turn back and leave. At this point he also discloses the fact that he is extremely conscious about his physical appearance. He worries that everyone in the room would only notice his bald spot, firm collar, necktie held by a simple pin, and his thin limbs. Prufrock imagines the words the people around him would utter on noticing his appearance.
Prufrock is a timid man. He is extremely conscious of what others think of him and this has a great effect on his actions. This, in a way, also shows the disappointment Prufrock has with the way the world views things. He expresses his disappointment by stating that the world would judge him only based on his external appearance and not by what he holds in his heart. Prufrock concludes that this is how the world works and he wonders if he has the guts to disturb the universe.
Prufrock, crushed under the pressures of modern life, crumbles from within. He shuts himself off from society and the woman that he loves: all because of his deep self-loathing and fear. Prufrock lacks confidence and lets him be caught in the web of his own imagination. He views himself as a modest and simple man who does not fit into the complicated society around him. This internal catastrophe describes the isolating and lonely nature of modern existence, where cultural norms become internalized and people watch themselves, as from the guard tower of a prison, hoping to catch themselves in the act of individualizing before becoming a deviant in the eyes of society (Masters Paul, 3).
Prufrock then makes a