Study Guide

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Manipulation

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The poem’s epigraph is a quotation of Guido da Montefeltro, a particularly manipulative chap who finds a place near the bottom of Dante’s Hell in Inferno. Right away, this epigraph sets off alarm bells that we should be suspicious of everything that shy old Mr. Prufrock says. First he’s trying to lead us down dark, winding streets, then he’s trying to convince us of how decisive he is. Prufrock is one of the most deceptive narrators you’ll ever encounter.

Questions About Manipulation

  1. Guido da Montefeltro only told Dante the story of his life because he thought Dante would not return to earth to repeat it. Is Prufrock doing the same thing in this poem?
  2. Do you think Prufrock is lying outright about some of his claims, or is he just misleading?
  3. How does the structure of the poem play to Prufrock’s advantage?
  4. If Prufrock is so manipulative, then why is it so easy for a reader to see through his deception?

Chew on This

Prufrock purposefully arranges his song to leave out all the parts that would make him look bad.

Although Prufrock says he is not prophet, he’s really the prophet of the so-called "modern man."

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