Explain the line "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

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literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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In T. S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrok" the following line appears:

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

What Eliot, and the speaker, is saying that in life he has been very careful with decisions in life. When measuring coffee to brew one must be sure to use the exact amount, and no more, to create the drink. Like measuring coffee out, the speaker is saying that he has been very careful to not take too little or too much out of life. He has simply taken all he has needed to survive.

What this means is that sometimes people are so careful as to examine their life that they are so careful that they measure out specific aspects of life. The speaker seems to be stating that his carefulness has, unfortunately, left him feeling doubtful, alienated, and as if time has passed without recognition or concern. The look back on his life suggests that Prufrok regrets taking such measured actions--instead wishing that he would have thrown the spoon to the wind and done more.

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