Study Guide

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Time

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In relation to time, this poem is a total trip. It ricochets back and forth between the past and the future, almost never settling on the present. One moment Prufrock is talking about all the things he’s going to do before having tea; the next moment he has had tea and still doesn’t have the energy to do anything. But somehow, by the end of the poem, Prufrock’s big chance has passed him by, and he becomes a sad, old man in flannel pants.

Questions About Time

  1. Where does the poem begin, and where does it end? Are these points at different times?
  2. How many events actually "happen" over the course of the poem?
  3. At what points does the poem seem to go back in time?
  4. How would you explain these lines: "In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse"?

Chew on This

No time actually passes over the course of the poem.

"Prufrock" must be set in Hell because people repeat the same thoughts and actions over and over, like someone running in place.

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