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Wearing one's trousers rolled

Posted by Graham Cambray on February 20, 2009 at 00:38

In Reply to: Wearing one's trousers rolled posted by David FG on February 19, 2009 at 20:43:

: : : What is the meaning of 'wearing one's trousers rolled'? It appears in T.S Eliot's Prufrock, along with 'do i dare to eat the peach?' To eat the peach could actually be a 'daring' thing to do in old age when one's teeth are not strong enough ... but I can't understand the rolled trousers. Is it because of shrunken bones?

: : ----------

: : I'm not qualified to unravel Eliot's lines, but others have published commentaries. Various interpretations vie with each other, but at
: :

: : "With this he creates yet another ridiculous image of himself with his hair slicked to cover his bald spot, trousers cuffed in youthful fashion, considering the act of high daring of eating a peach in easily stained white slacks."

: : I don't put the above passage forward as an authoritative commentary, but just to show that a range of interpretations are possible.

: : We often forget that Eliot was only in his twenties when he wrote this (so he wasn't writing from personal experience of middle or old age) and had only been in the UK (he was born in the US) for about a year when the poem was first published. (GC)

: I don't think there's anything in the poem to suggest that Prufrock is 'old': certainly not so old that his teeth couldn't manage a peach (which are conspicuously soft, I would have thought, anyway).

: Isn't it rather the point that it is the 'stream of consciousness' of a middle-aged man?



Yes, I'd agree - a mid-life crisis or something similar. But of a rather neurotic individual; Prufrock is close to obsessed with his age and appearance. If he does not necessarily consider himself old, he is certainly concerned that others will. This is the passage the questioner refers to:

"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."

so Atabraiz might not be alone in initially thinking that Prufrock is older than his years, perhaps. It's not an awfully easy poem - people argue to this day about what individual lines and phrases mean (and how old Prufrock actually is). Well, what I suppose I mean is that I certainly wouldn't claim to understand all of this poem, though that might say more about me than the poem. And as for "The Waste Land" ....... (GC)