Prufrock, the main character of T. S. Eliot`s `The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', is, from Eliot's point of view, the prototypical 'modern man'. Urbanization, social change, secularism, and the fragmentation of the sensibility have left Prufrock unable to have firm convictions or relations. He is, like Hamlet, indecisive, but has no social or religious framework of certainty to help him make decisions, and most of the things he needs to decide are fundamentally trivial. Thus he proves as vacillating in minor dilemmas (whether he should eat a peach, if he should have cuffs on his trousers, hairstyle) as in the major one of whether he should attempt to make sexual overtures to the woman of the poem.
One aspect of Prufrock's character that stands out in T. S. Eliot's iconic poem is his attitude towards aging and mortality. This theme is found in imagery throughout the poem, including the first stanza after the epigraph from Dante's poem "The Inferno." "The Inferno" conjures images of hellfire, but the poem ends with images of drowning. This suggests an attempt by Eliot to let his poem come full circle and show life as a cycle, or a series of cycles, that repeat endlessly with death being an inevitable part of that cycle.
One passage in particular speaks to the narrator's ambivalence and possible fear of growing old:
"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.I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.I do not think that they will sing to me."
"We have lingered in the chambers of the seaBy sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brownTill human voices wake us, and we drown."