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> > both literatal and figurative.
>
> It has always been more "shameful" in practice to be known _not_ to have
> had sexual experience than to be known to have engaged in illicit sex.

Don't you mean "shamefultatal"?  ;) .. *sigh*

Now that I think on it, I can see a good deal in the interpretation that
Prufrock is indeed a virgin -- such a reading would provide an answer to
"what 'one' is responding": that perceived sexual overtures were not
intended as such.  It would also draw up a neat parallel between
Prufrock's desire to "spit out the butt-ends" and, as you say, the smoking
young men.

And, of course, there's the huge clue in the Marvell references, which
Eliot subverts.  Taken to its logical conclusion, if the image from "To
his coy mistress"  is of a sexual race towards death, then it follows that
Lazarus, back from the dead, has successfully rolled that ball -- and is
no longer a virgin.  Interesting..

I hope my stream-of-consciousness ruminations won't irritate anybody..

--George