The Significance of “you and I” in ‘the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
The Significance of “you and I” in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”In T.S Elliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the opening line “let us go then, you and I” is an attempt of Prufrock being vulnerable and reaching out to  communicate with the reader. By acceptance that the “you” applies to the reader we become sharers of Prufrock’s experience. By allowing ourselves to get closer to Prufrock, we too discover that we too have discovered our insignificance, hesitated, and feared rejection and felt undeserved at some point of our lives. It has become customary to discuss the “you” in the opening line as unworthy or imaginary, and in some cases the unattainable lady or Prufrock’s divided self. In Modern Language Studies, an article titled “Till human voices wake us and we drown”: Community in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, James C. Haba concludes that the “you” in the opening line refers to the reader. Haba feels that if the reader rejects identification with the “you”, it results in the reader having a sense of invulnerability, and the poem cant be understood to its full extent. Haba feels that when we accept the “you” to be relating to the reader, we get a sense of Prufrock’s love. “We seem to be their and not there with Prufrock, involved and not involved, caught exquisitely, painfully, totally between two worlds: the world of belief and the world of doubt, of disbelief” (Haba, 55)

Looking through fresh eyes, when the first line, “you and I” (5) is introduced, it is apparent that “I” is the speaker and that happens to be Prufrock granting the title; but what about the “you”? It could be argued that it is the love interest that has sparked the ‘love song’. “If one, settling a pillow by her head,Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.That is not it, at all.’ (96-98)These three lines indicate that the “you” is not his love interest in the poem because he is talking about her. She is “one,” who settles a pillow by “her” head and “one,” according to him that is likely to misunderstand Prufrock. If we think that Prufrock is talking to himself, the poem would be considered an interior monologue. If this is the case, Prufrock is carrying a conversation with himself during the whole poem. This could be representative of alienation in Prufrock and further add to his loneliness. Elliot explores the themes of loneliness and alienation. Prufrock spends the span of the poem pondering “an overwhelming question” which he needs to ask a woman of interest. Prufrock’s attitude throughout the poem is continually negative. For some duration of the poem Prufrock is depressed and frets over the worst aspects of his life, such as his aging, timidity, fear, and loneliness, not once mentioning anything positive. When Prufrock states that the streets “follow like a tedious argument of insidious intent” (59), shows the pessimism of Prufrock in describing the setting, he describes them as boring and deserted.  Prufrock’s decision making is also due to his pessimistic attitude, he has this “overwhelming question” (60) to ask and disregards it on purpose stating, “there will be time”. He never asks this question due to his fear of being made fun of and rejected by the women. Prufrock’s pessimistic character is unified with his loneliness.

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Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock And Opening Line. (April 3, 2021). Retrieved from