The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (T. S. Eliot)
What is the “yellow fog?” What does it represent in the poem?
The yellow fog is used as a symbolism of the pollution in the city. The poem was written during the post-industrial revolution era, and London was grappling with pollution. Eliot’s description of the yellow fog was because when the environment is too polluted, the smoke and fog can stick on windows causing a yellowish discoloration. Besides, the poem was probably written during autumn as he mentions “soft October night” (Eliot 2). As the sun shone through the smoky air, it is possible that Elliot observed the fog turning yellow thus the line “The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes…” (Eliot 2).
The poem was also written at a time when the city was sprawling with people who were moving to towns in search of jobs. It is obvious that the town was overpopulated and overcrowding often brings forth pollution due to too much activity. Elliot wrote the poem in an environment that is naturally foggy. The London fog is known the world over, and the characteristic “yellow” fog used by Elliot was to paint the extent of pollution in the city.
He also uses personification when he says that the yellow fog was rubbing its back upon the window panes, rubbing its muzzle on the window panes and licking its tongue into the corners of the evening (Eliot 2). It is common knowledge that fog or smoke cannot walk yet Eliot personifies them in his poem.
Eliot could have been bringing out the changes that had occurred in the city, hence the use of the term “yellow fog.” It is evident that the city’s changing, women are becoming liberal from the discussions of Michelangelo while men like Prufrock are overworking and keeping awake with coffee. The term yellow fog could be describing the inevitable changes taking over the world and their effects that will be irreversible.
Eliot, T S. The Waste Land, Prufrock, and Other Poems. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 1998. Internet resource. https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=e63CAgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=The+Love+Song+of+J.+Alfred+Prufrock+(T.+S.+Eliot)&hl=en&sa=X&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=The%20Love%20Song%20of%20J.%20Alfred%20Prufrock%20(T.%20S.%20Eliot)&f=false