Eliot, is a depiction of sadness and a disillusioned narrator that seems to have given up hope. At the very beginning of the poem, Eliot uses a quote from Dante's "Inferno"," preparing the poem's reader to expect a vision of hell "If I thought that my reply would be to one who would ever return to the world, this flame would stay without further movement; but since none has ever returned alive from this depth, if what I hear is true, I answer you without fear of infamy" (Dante, Inferno 27.61-66). This seems to ask the reader to accept that what the narrator is about to tell them was not supposed to be revealed to the living world, just as Dante was exposed to horrors in the Inferno that were not supposed to be revealed to the living world. This comparison is both frightening and intriguing, and casts a shadow on the poem and its narrator before it has even begun. It also shows that the narrator, J. Alfred Prufrock, is an anxious, self-conscious, and depressed man.
The first half of the poem creates a sense of place; the narrator invites the reader to walk with him as he reflects back on memories his life, "Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets"" (Eliot 1302). The narrator compares the evening to an unconscious, corpselike patient which is disturbing, but effective in that we associate the daytime as the time of the living, and the night time as the time of the dead. The narrator seems to be anxious and hesitant, and suggests a sense of wickedness and gloom when he compares the night's fog to the actions of a typical cat, making the reader sense the mystery of a dark, foggy night in a familiar way, "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes, Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening"" (Eliot 1302). With these lines the narrator also creates an anxiety in the image of dark deserted streets and the shady activities in the dark.