The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
by T.S. Eliot
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Passivity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (line)
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo. (13-14)
Although these lines don’t add to Prufrock’s story (or lack thereof), the image of these women coming and going while talking about a famous Renaissance painter totally captures the passivity of the poem. It’s not like they are looking at paintings or taking a class or something. They’re just talking about old stuff in a room that isn’t described at all.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea. (lines 23-34)
Prufrock has big plans. BIG plans. And there’s plenty of time to accomplish them all before tea is served. He has time to spend an entire stanza talking about the fog. Also, he has time to get ready and "prepare a face" to meet other people. Kind of weird, but OK. We’re not so sure about "to murder and create," though. That could be hard to get done before tea, unless he has a getaway car planned already. But there’s definitely time for "a hundred indecisions." If anyone is capable of not making a decision, it’s our man Prufrock.
So how should I presume? (line 54)
This is just one of the many stall-tactics that Prufrock uses to put of asking his question or saying anything important at all. He justifies all his delays because he doesn’t want to "presume," or act like something is the case when it may not be. But what he really means is he doesn’t want to take a risk by sharing his thoughts or feelings.