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Intertextuality In T.S. Elliots: The Hollow Men

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The epigraph to T.S. Elliot's Poem "The Hollow Men" creates intertextualiy in that it alludes to the desired meaning which Elliot wished to describe. While the poem creates a certain dreary and hopeless outlook on life, the epigraph could be seen as a prelude for what is to come. Yet in my own opinion I feel that Elliot is rather attempting to clarify his poem's meaning.

I found it very interesting that Elliot places the poem in the first person and as the reader we are an intricate part of the work. It almost comes as a rude awakening that "we are the hollow men" (Elliot 2628). I think that the author chose this point of view to showcase how he feels of the people of his present society. It seems from the poem that Elliot is trying to show that the "men" with whom he encounters are seemingly empty and void of any drive or motivation for living life. The first line of the epigraph alludes to Marlow's encounter of Kurtz in Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Marlow describes Kurtz as a "hollow sham" of a man in that his supposed outlook on life is dreary to the point of nonexistence (Conrad 2378). In the second line of the epigraph Elliot is citing the historical Guy Fawkes incident of the British Parliament. Upon first reading the epigraph and researching the two lines I felt that while the allusion to Conrad was indeed relevant, I did not understand how the second line held any pertinence to the poem. Yet upon further examination I think that what Elliot was trying to do by including this allusion was create a sense of despair and overwhelming death.

Death plays a paramount role in the second portion of the poem as Elliot speaks for all of us in that we want not to be "nearer" to "death's dream kingdom" (Elliot 2629). The personification of death in this section further overwhelms the senses of the reader and imparts a gloomy outlook for our future.




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