The rhetorical question is a device used frequently by Eliot throughout the poem and it serves to highlight that which is most important both to Eliot's point and, in a different way, to Prufrock. From the very first stanza it is revealed to us that the intent of this work is "to lead you to an overwhelming question..." but Eliot's not telling just what that question is yet. Later in the poem Prufock asks twice in a row, of nobody in particular, "Do I dare?" This gives us the beginning of the question that is at the core of Prufock's problems and Eliot's point. The overwhelming question I would argue comes in the lines, "Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,/Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?" This shows us Prufrock's true issues all encapsulated, he is unable to make a decision, whether this is a decision of a sexual nature as the setting and the idea of a love song implies or even something more simple we as readers can see that Prufrock does not have the strength to make a final decision. He is too busy waffling in fear of the consequences and dealing instead with trivial matters such as "tea and cakes and ices." This also shows Eliots point by highlighting Prufrock's ridiculous nature. The reader sees in Prufrock the consequences of remaining caught in a limbo of indecision. There is one more rhetorical question that is seen at the end of the poem where Prufrock says: "Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?" Here we can see that Prufrock has moved into questioning even the trivial decisions of his life. This can be read in two ways: the first reading is a literal one and leads us to believe that Prufrock has become completely stuck in his own rut of inaction; the second one is a sarcastic reading. In this reading we take these questions as sarcastic, he is wondering why he has waited so long to make these decisions and sarcastically upbraiding himself for his indecision with ridiculous examples.
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