Poetry is essentially derived from the manifesto of ideas, emotion and theories we hold as important. Moreover, symbolism, the representation of an idea through an object or person, can be used to condense the ideologies and perspectives of a specific society or individual into a poem. T.S. Eliot in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1910-1911) and "Portrait of a Lady" (1910 - 1915) endeavours to compact the understandings and values of the early 20th century Western society - such as femininity, spiritual and social anxiety - in his poetry through an extensive use of symbolism. Both poems were written at the height of Modernism, a time characterised by contradiction and eclecticism. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a dramatic monologue of an eponymous persona, who is greatly concerned with the way he is presented in terms of how he fits in with the expectations concerning masculinity in the Anglo-American society of 1910. We learn, by the end of the poem, that, in fact, he doesn't satisfy expectations. Similarly, "Portrait of a Lady" is a poem of a lady who ineffectively attempts to be accepted in a society in which women are marginalised. Eliot focuses on her unsuccessful relationship with a man as the poem spans over ten months. The world in which these poems are set is one of secularism and materialism. .
Ideas concerning femininity are consistently represented in both "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Portrait of a Lady" through a wide collection of symbols. The ideas which govern how women should act were very much a part of society at the turn of the century. Women were seen to be deprived of individuality and agency. Social ideologies regarding femininity, such as - the deprivation of independence, inferiority and incapability - are strongly abided by in "Portrait". Symbols used by Eliot in this poem suggest that women are lesser and therefore alienated.