Do not be mislead by the title of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” You will find nothing but nothingness. Just as Marlowe in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness realizes that there is nothing significant about death and mortality, the speaker in the poem realizes that there really is not anything in love either. In accordance to his indecisive, passive character, he ends up not doing anything despite his attraction for women. The repetitions keep him stuck and isolated in the present and in his apathy, unable to move forward. The biblical allusion to Lazarus also depicts his indecisive, timid, fearful character.
Line 24 alludes to the biblical Lazarus. There are two men of that name in the Bible. The first one is the man who Jesus resurrected. Lazarus walked out of his tomb and returned to his two sisters, Mary and Martha. The other Lazarus was told in on of Jesus’ parables. He was a poor man who had died and was sent to Heaven. A rich man named Dives died and went to Hell. He asks and pleads to Abraham to send Lazarus to earth to tell his brothers about Hell and damnation but is refused. Both fit in the poem. To be either is useless. The first Lazarus rose from the dead but nothing came from that. Did he even want to come back? The second Lazarus dies and never goes back to earth. Abraham refuses Dives’ request, because he says that even if Lazarus does go back, Dives’ brothers will not believe him. Lazarus’ and Dives’ deaths were useless. Prufrock is like both of these Lazarus’. He does not act on his desires to see this woman. He thinks that it will be useless or that it will be a horrible experience; like dying. If he survives the experience, like the first Lazarus, what will be the use? He thinks it will come to nothing. If he does not survive, nothing will come from that either. All is useless. To act and to not act, are for him, the same thing: useless.
The phrase, “In the room women come and go | Talking of Michelangelo” appears twice (line 13-14 and lines 35-36). “Do I dare?” occurs three times (lines 38 and 45). “should say: ‘That is not what I meant at all, | That is not what I meant at all,” also appears twice (lines 97-98 and 109-110). The repetitions keep in stuck in the present moment. The first mentioned phrase repeats to emphasize that the women talk of nothing else but Michelangelo or the speaker does not hear anything but the women talking about the artist. Michelangelo, an artist of the sixteenth century was considered a “Renaissance man,” the ideal man. He repeats this phrase because he knows that he is nothing like this ideal man; far from him in fact. The next phrase reiterates but never amounts to anything, which is a theme in the poem. He keeps asking himself this question as though he is trying to persuade himself to act, but he does not. It is ironic because no matter how many times he asks himself, the answer is the same: “No.” He does not explicitly say so but his lack of action does. The last phrase is repeated as to invoke the speaker’s fear of being rejected. He fears that those words might be repeated to him.
The biblical allusion to Lazarus shows that he himself thinks that if he were to act on his desires, it would come to nothing. To not act would be the same. He is indecisive. His repetitions show the same characteristic. They show that he is afraid of rejection, thinks of himself lowly because he does not measure up to Michelangelo and that he is afraid to “dare,” to act.