Literary Devices in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Dramatic Monologue: A dramatic monologue is a psychologically revealing character study written from the first-person perspective. The speaker and protagonist describes a series of events, inadvertently showing aspects of his or her inner life. In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Prufrock reveals the modern, urban landscape he inhabits. In the process, the reader learns of his timid personality, his “hundred indecisions,” and his questions—“So how should I presume?”
Rhyme: Eliot uses careful end rhyme, though intermittently and inconsistently. At various times, the poem includes rhyming couplets, ABAB schemes, as well as unrhymed passages. There are instances in which two rhyming lines are separated by three non-rhyming lines. The stanza structures vary as well. Scattered throughout the poem are stanzas of two, seven, and twelves lines. While these rhymes and stanzas are carefully constructed, there is no pattern or scheme to speak of. The poem’s lack of commitment to rhyme and stanza structure mirrors Prufrock’s halting, indecisive approach to the world.
Meter: As with the rhyme scheme, the meter is carefully constructed but inconsistent. The poem’s guiding meter is pentameter, the five-beat line standard in English-language verse. Throughout the poem, even within a given stanza, the lines shorten and lengthen, returning to pentameter periodically. The poem includes lines of every metrical length from monometer—one beat per line—to heptameter—seven beats per line. The metrical flexibility allows the poem to capture Prufrock’s ever-shifting flow of thought, which quickens and slows, expands and contracts.