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Hollow Men Analysis

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Poetry Analysis of T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men

I picked this poem by Eliot for two primary reasons, one of them being that Eliot is

one of my favorite modern poets, and the other being the view presented in it. That view

is one of a barren and dead world, with humans as meandering and meaningless objects

with no true value, and religion (primarily Christianity) as a futile hope for a salvation that

will never be granted. Most of that can be observed in section I, but particularly in lines

5-7, where it is said that "our dried voices... are quiet and meaningless." Within that

section, Eliot states repeatedly that we humans are objects without worth, and that our

actions and voices mean nothing after we have passed. The statement "Headpiece filled

with straw" in line 4 has a double meaning, representing the straw hat worn by simple

country people, and also showing a lack of meaningful thought within the human mind. In

the last part of this section, there is the first appearance of the recurring theme of eyes

(which appears in the following lines: 14, 19, 22, 52, 53, and 62), as well as one of the

many references to Hell ("death's other Kingdom", appearing in lines 14, 20, 31, 38, 46,

and 65). From this point, the poem turns towards the theme of faith and afterlife.

Delving deeply into the subject of the afterlife, the first half of section II deals with

the fear of meeting what waits for the dead ("Eyes I dare not meet in dreams"), as well as

the barren and apocalyptic world view which is presented constantly throughout the poem.

Additionally, references to Shakespeare and the Bible are made in that part: referring to

Shakespeare's "For in that sleep of death..." in Hamlet using "death's dream kingdom";

and referring to the book of Revelations in lines 25-28, with the "voices... In the wind's

singing" which can be taken as the solemn cry of the angels announcing the imminent

apocalypse, voices that carried across the world on the wind. Line 28 gives the first

appearance of the third and final recurring term in the poem, the fading or dying star

(appearing in lines 28, 44, and 54; also as "perpetual star" in line 63). In the second part

of section II, the focus on the Christian religion becomes far less literal, giving way to

references to the clothing and objects used in Pagan rituals ("Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed

staves"). This is, assumedly, to hide oneself from the eyes of God. The fear of afterlife

shows up again in lines 36-38, with the poem's subject desiring to be "No nearer--" to the

"final meeting In the twilight kingdom", or Judgment (Purgatory).

Another important theme for the remainder of this poem is the apocalyptic view of

the world, demonstrated in all of section III. "This is the dead land" could refer to the

place where the apocalypse is said to happen, when humanity is pushed to the wasteland at

the edges of the earth. The "stone images" which are raised could be referring to the

Pyramids of Biblical Egypt, but more than likely they refer to large stone crosses, which

were once used on top of all Christian churches. Prayers are offered in this poem to those

stone images, in hopes of a salvation from the coming destruction, but rejected because of

the human lack of faith ("...prayers to broken stone").




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