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In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot, how old is Prufrock? What...

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kc76384 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:45 AM via web

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In The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot, how old is Prufrock? What evidence do we have concerning his age?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2012 at 6:49 AM (Answer #1)

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In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, we have several pieces of evidence concerning the age of Prufrock. Some are implicit. For example, his caution, primness, concern with propriety, and general self-presentation give him the character of a middle-aged man. As well, though, we have several explicit references to his age.

The most significant passage is:

Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the
     chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a
     simple pin—
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are
     thin!"]

This physical description suggests middle age. Prufrock is not feeble (he descends the stairs unaided) and yet his legs and arms show his age. He is starting to grow bald, but the process is still in progress, and thus again we have a sense of middle rather than old age. His sartorial choices also reflect an upper middle class middle age.

The second passage of relevance is:

  I grow old ... I grow old ...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

          Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a
               peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon
          the beach.

Again, one sees that Prufrock is growing, but not, yet old, thus suggesting middle age.

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