Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Prufrock uses the image of a patient under ether, a potent anesthetic, to suggest his complacency and impotence. The imagery of sickness here may also suggest the sickened state of language or even youth/manhood in the early 1900s — a time when the old romantic vocabulary of the Victorian Era was being used by politicians to justify ending young men’s lives in war.
After the sing-song rhyme of the first two lines, Eliot’s initial readership were primed for something more pretty-sounding from the rest of the poem. But the next line doesn’t rhyme, and the image he chooses is stark and deathly.
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