What are specific details that show the speaker is growing old in "The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S Eliot?

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Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is extremely complex.  I'll show you one small section that seems to indicate Prufrock is getting old or is old.

In the final section of the poem, the following lines appear:

I grow old...I grow old...

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.  (120-21)

The speaker here juxtaposes (places next to each other, contrasts) the profound with the trivial.  The first line demonstrates his self-recognition and resignation, while the second demonstrates his eagerness to keep up with the latest fashion.  Cuffs on trousers were reportedly becoming popular at the time, and to appear "hip," as we today might say (at least someone my age), he will roll his pants up to make them appear to be cuffed.

Following these two lines are:

Shall I part my hair behind?  Do I dare to eat a peach?

The parting of the hair from behind may serve the purpose of covering a bald spot, and eating a peach may be risky because he has weak, aging teeth or wears dentures. 

The above would seem to indicate Prufrock is an old man.  At the same time, the sense may be present that the speaker is speculating, or envisioning the future.  He may be daydreaming about what he will be like as an old man.  He is daydreaming about mermaids/sirens in the very next line, and is jolted out of his daydream in the final line of the poem by "human voices."  This might indicate Prufrock is not yet an old man.

I told you "Prufrock" was complex. 

Read the study guide:
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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