In a message dated 9/23/02 2:03:39 PM EST, [log in to unmask] writes:

> How do a standard fixture of cities--those lonely men--
> become specifically homosexuals.  Why not married men
> who, not being rich or proper enough to belong to clubs,
> must send their smoke out of their wives' ways?
>  Marcia

The lines need to be looked at in the context of lines that precede and
follow them:

Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?...

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

Prufrock is thinking about how will approach a woman that he is expected (by
society) to marry and have a life with. His thoughts turn to the travels he
takes "at dusk through narrow streets", which I take to be a surreptitious
trip to a sleazy part of town. As he thinks about the MEN in that sleazy part
of town, he appears to experience a moment  of panic and self-loathing ("I
should have been a pair of ragged claws/Scuttling across the floors of silent
seas."). I see no reason whatsoever for Prufrock to mentally turn himself
into a low-level creature from the sea if he's just reflecting on seeing
lonely married men who were too poor to belong to clubs and must blow smoke
out of their windows to avoid their coughing wives. This makes no artistic
sense to me.

This does not prove the men are homosexuals, but given that they are
populating the "narrow streets at dusk" (and given the context of the whole
poem which we have not yet discussed in these short posts), I think that is
the image being implied.

-- Steve --