“It is impossible to say just what I mean!” from T.S Elliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
T.S Elliot is the author of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. This poem is the first published one of his works. Elliot had written a remark on “The Metaphysical Poets.” In that remark, he says that “We can only say that it appears likely that poets in our civilization, as it exists at present must be difficult. Our civilization comprehends great variety and complexity, and this variety and complexity, playing upon a redefined sensibility, must produce various and complex results. The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary language into his meaning.” This could mean that because life is difficult, people are difficult, civilization is difficult so the poets need to be difficult too. Twentieth century literature is more about what is going in humans’ minds, therefore it is difficult to write about that. The words “as it exists at present” refer exactly to this twentieth century literature. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is all about what is going on in his mind, his thoughts.
There is a communication within the song but is a personal communication, Prufrock talks to himself. There are certain passages where he is on the point to act, but he does not. After he decides not to act, he summons up the reasons why. Then he is imagining what would be if he acted. What is going on in his mind is a proof that he does not communicate with the others, and there are several reasons why. “It is impossible to say just what I mean” (line 104) is one of the reasons why there is failed communication in the song. Finding this line in the poem is a strange thing, especially because this song is about hesitation and failed communication. With other words this song is about someone who is thinking a lot and doing nothing. Further particular parts of the song will be explained where his hesitation is obvious, and what could he mean by saying the quoted verse above.
Hesitation is the act of pausing to indecision or uncertainty in either speech or action. With other words hesitation is a pause because of indecision to do something, about inability to make a choice or to decide about something. ” To lead you to an overwhelming question … Oh, do not ask, ‘What is it?’ Let us go and make our visit.” (line 10, 11, 12) With these lines the poet makes an impression that something is going to happen, that he is going to answer that question, that he will talk about the visit, but the next lines completely change the course. “In the room the women come and go Talking about Michelangelo.” (line 13, 14) This is that moment of pause where Prufrock hesitate to take an action and make the visit. The visit might be to enter in that room where the people are. He changes his thoughts and talks about the women that comes and go.
What is interesting is that after those lines he talks about something else, dragging our intention away from the point he started. Again there are the same lines about the women that come and go. After those lines he continues “And indeed there will be time To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’ ” From these lines is obvious that he is enable to make a decision and decide to meet with the others. The reason he gives, there will be time to act and answer the questions. He is prolonging the idea to do something. He is uncertain about what to do, but he is certain that there will be time.
“Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets “(line 70) from this line and the other that follows Prufrock is asking himself what he should say. It is somehow like a rehearsal before doing something, but again he is hesitating. Those lines are important because he decide not to speak or act. After those lines he summons up the reasons why he did not act. The answer he gets is that “And in short, I was afraid.” (line 86) That is the source of his hesitation and uncertainty to act. He is afraid from what the others will say and think about him. This is obvious from the lines where he thinks what the others will say. “They will say: ‘How his hair is growing thin!’” (line 41) “They will say: ‘But how his arms and legs are thin!’ ” (line 64) from this lines can be concluded that he is concerned about what the others will say. That is the reason why he is indecisive and uncertain about what to say and act.
As it was said that in the song there is not successful communication with the others, because this song is monologue and is all about what is going in his mind. The reason for not communicating with the others can be found in the question that he asks. “So how should I presume?” (line 54) “And how should I begin?” (line 69) asking himself this questions put him in the position of indecision and not be able to begin. By asking a question he puts himself in doubt which makes him insecure, and unable to say something.
”It is impossible to say what I mean!” (line 104) this line comes after he is imagining what might have happen if he had said something. It is strange to find this line after he summons up the reasons why he did not act. This line could be a comfort for him. The reason for this is that he is imagining what might be if he had spoken something, and he gets that idea that he might be misunderstood or he might say something that he did not want to say. That line somehow justifies his hesitation.
He comforts himself that it is impossible to say just what he means, so it is better not to communicate. Another thing is that he is presuming what other will say and ask him about. He is afraid if he says something he will be misunderstood. At the very beginning is the line “Let us go then, you and I” (line 1) which at first thought maybe he and somebody else or the reader, but that is not true. Using the pronoun you, Prufrock does not mean on somebody else, he probably means on himself as divided person. “To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet” (line 28) from this line it is clear that Prufrock has two faces. One face that he uses to appear in a public place and meet the others and the other face is his real face. So, that “you and I” probably refers to him. The pronoun you, might refer to the face that he wants to be in front of the others, and the pronoun I might refer to him as what he really is.
Another example of the poem that is about the meaning begins with “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes” (line 15) and ends with this line “Curled once about the house, and fall asleep.” These lines are comparison for a cat. Prufrock actually talks about a yellow fog, a yellow smoke, but that is not what he means. He means on a cat that curled once about a house.
The point is that if he says something it will not be what he means, because of the other people, who will get the meaning of his saying differently than the way he wants to be understood. That is because the world is difficult and the people are judging him on his appearance and look. He wants to be understood about why he finds himself to be difficult in communication without using the other face to meet the faces. It is difficult to know what is going on in someone else’s mind. It is difficult to understand what someone means by saying something. Everything written above is a proof why there is a hesitation and failed communication in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Pruforock.”
In conclusion, the line “It is impossible to say what just I mean“ is impossible because words change the meaning and readers or people whom Prufrock might have spoken to, will figure out differently than the way he wants to be understood. All he wants is someone just listen to him and not trying to figure out what he means by saying that. He finds difficult to speak to other people, because of what the people will say and ask him. That is the reason for failed communication. He is not decided what to say and how to say it.
Even though there is a moment when he wants to act, but he is indecisive making him not to take any action. And all that results in a long monologue about what is going on in his mind. All those lines make sense in Prufrock’s mind, but when it comes to say what he means he finds difficulties. The reasons are: that he is afraid, he is concern what the others might say, he is indecisive and uncertain. In addition, he might be misunderstood or he might say what he does not want. One thought leads to another one. Is more or less as in the song, he begins with one thought then he thinks on something else. He can not think just on one thing, and he can not say just what he mean because he means a lot of things.