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Analysis and comments on The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot

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Comment 25 of 255, added on March 14th, 2006 at 5:51 PM.

I really enjoyed this poem despite being kinda confused. I understand the
Heart of Darkness referrences and the circles of Hell but I'm not really
sure what the point of the nursery rhyme is? any guesses?

Liz from United States
Comment 24 of 255, added on January 12th, 2006 at 5:22 PM.

I had done this poet for a poetry project when I was in school. I had
happed to stumble upon this poem and found it suitable enough to be
analyzed for my paper. I believe that T.S. Eliot is talking about the
effects war has on human beings. The men come back hollow(feeling empty
and without emotion) and regretting that their lives were spared over
others. The men feel that there's no point in continuing on a morbid path
to your death. They will always feel sad and remember how traumatizing
undergoing the events of war were. There are some parts in the poem that
do relate to religion but I rather not go into the complexities of
explianing the poem piece by piece. I only wish you could enjoy his poetry
as much as I do.

Double Bubble from United States
Comment 23 of 255, added on December 11th, 2005 at 5:40 PM.

In T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”, and in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great
Gatsby, the reader is confronted by an unsavory view of humanity. Both
Fitzgerald and Eliot show that society is constantly de-evolving, both
morally and spiritually. There are numerous similarities between these two
works. However, the differences in the author’s view of modern life
distinguish these as two unique and original pieces.
The diction of both authors is extremely precise. This precision of
diction leads to the effective conveyance of all other literary
conventions, and thus, the authors’ styles. In “The Hollow Men”, the
diction initially appears muddled. This is because the reader does not
accept the ideas that Eliot is trying to convey. The passage “In this
valley of dying stars | In this hollow valley | This broken jaw of our lost
kingdom”(Eliot, lines 54-56) might lead the reader to try to work out some
type of muddled metaphor. The diction in this passage is intended only to
evoke strong feelings associated with “broken jaw”, “hollow valley” and
“dying stars”. Fitzgerald’s diction, on the other hand is made clear
solely through his precise use of words: “It faced, or seemed to face, the
whole external world for an instant and then concentrated on you with an
irresistible prejudice in your favor.” Every word is used in its accurate
and literal definition to complete the dramatic effect.
Symbolism is used extensively throughout the works of Fitzgerald and Eliot
and assists us in comprehending their style. In “The Hollow Men” almost
every word is linked to some symbol of moral downfall. This symbolic
density leads to a feeling of symbolic intensity. Eliot packs the repeated
symbolic meaning in a hope that some of it will be remembered. Correct
moral action is composed not only of action, but also of ‘seeing’ what is
correct, ‘speaking’ the truth. The passage “The eyes are not here| There
are no eyes here| Inn this valley of dying stars| In this hollow valley|
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms” shows that modern people are
incapable of seeing what the correct course of action is (“There are no
eyes here…”) and also incapable of speaking correctly of their fellows
(“This broken jaw…”). The “lost kingdom” might pertain to the kingdom that
existed when morality was still present in daily life. The symbolism in
The Great Gatsby is much more sparse, but it is still just as intense when
it is presented. The symbolic Valley of Ashes is described early in the
book and is recurs several times. This Valley is described as “a fantastic
farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque
gardens, where ashes take the form of houses and chimneys and rising smoke
and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already
crumbling through the powdery air.” People who live in the Valley might
start out full of life, but soon have their vitality sucked from them.
This can be interpreted as symbolic of the times in which we live, where a
man might start out life full of morals and faith, but soon has them sucked
from him by the ethical vacuum of modern society.
The undertones of both works were surprisingly similar when one considers
the diversity of the works themselves. One could interpret the undertone
of The Great Gatsby as futility. This is justified by the activities,
traits, and backgrounds of all of the characters in the book. Every
character, whether their early life was uncorrupt or not, became imperfect.
Gatsby, for example, began life as a hard worker, who was aiming to reform
the world, “ ‘Jimmy was bound to get ahead…Do you notice what he’s got
about improving his mind?’ ” (Mr. Gatz to Nick), but ended his life as a
mobster chasing an unattainable dream. Even Wilson, a seemingly perfect
character, showed his imperfection when he killed himself and Gatsby. When
it seems that every person is bound for downfall, it is futile even to try.
The undertone of “The Hollow Men” is slightly different, but similarly
meaningful. It is the idea of waste as represented by the Shadow.
“Between the idea |and the reality| between the motion| and the act| falls
the Shadow” The shadow falls between the idea and the reality, and thus
stops the reality from occurring. The idea is then wasted, because it was
not brought to an active fruition. An alternate undertone for “the Hollow
Men” is the same one as in The Great Gatsby: futility. Most people desire
to end their lives with a bang, to go out swinging. Nobody wants to end
his or her life with a whimper. Thus if “This is the way the world ends|
Not with a bang but a whimper” is interpreted as meaning the true end of
the individual world, the reader gets a sense of futility.
Although the undertones were similar, the tones were very different. The
overall tone of The Great Gatsby was humanity (or the lack thereof). This
was made most clear through the difference in the ‘humanity level’ between
East and West Egg. Although no character was morally perfect, there was a
marked contrast between East and West Egg. West Egg seems to house
characters that have a better concept of humanity. These characters are
Nick and Gatsby. They could and did consider other people’s feelings and
lives before acting. The inhabitants of East Egg, however, do not concern
themselves with others’ feelings. The tone of “The Hollow Men” is death
and spirituality. Throughout the poem, various references are made to
religion and death. The “multifoliate rose” on line 64 is a reference to
“Dante Paradisio”. Toward the end of “The Hollow Men”, several references
are made to the Lord’s Prayer: “For thine is the kingdom…. For Thine is the
kingdom…For Thine is…For Thine is the…”.
Another difference between the styles of Fitzgerald and Eliot is their use
of imagery. In The Great Gatsby ‘sugar-coated’ imagery is more common than
images that show corruption. Most of the images that show the modern
society as a farce are associated with the Valley of Ashes: “occasionally a
line of grey cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly
creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with
leaden spades…”. These ‘dirty images’ are never near East or West Egg.
The Eggs exist to show a superficial splendor that is so gaudy it appears
sickly. The imagery in “The Hollow Men” is much more intense. Instead of
being superficial splendor interspersed with glimpses of the underlying
decay, it is an almost uninterrupted view of decay and darkness. From the
beginning of the poem Eliot presents the reader with dark images: “Or rats’
feet over broken glass | in our dry cellar”. The images are carried
through all the way to the end with “Falls the Shadow” and “This is the
way the world ends”.
Although the points of view that the authors express are nearly identical,
there is one fundamental difference. In Eliot’s “The Hollow Men”, nobody
is specifically exempt from being considered hollow; everyone is included
under “We are the hollow men…”. However, in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
leaves room for redemption. Throughout most of the story, the reader is
presented with the idea that nobody is perfect, or even incorruptible.
Near the end, however, when Mr.Gatz produces the young Jay Gatsby’s copy of
Hopalong Cassidy, it becomes apparent that children have the capacity to be
non-corrupt and pure. Indeed, the younger Gatsby had aimed to improve the
world as well as himself. When we are presented with this idea of blissful
and blessed childhood, it carries with it the promise of adult fruition.
That is the one fundamental difference between Eliot and Fitzgerald. Eliot
originally presented the idea of a corrupt modern society. Fitzgerald was
inspired by Eliot and added one important idea to the mix: hope. And
through that hope a promise of blessed triumph on “one fine morning”.

chris mccomb from United States
Comment 22 of 255, added on December 6th, 2005 at 10:13 PM.

This poem has a sense of hopelessness and despair. but it still is
intriguing. especially its connections to other writings, and what was
going on at that time. lets not forget this was written during the
modernism mov't.

(by the way, I put US as my country cuz i couldnt find Haïti)

Déborrah from United States
Comment 21 of 255, added on November 20th, 2005 at 7:50 PM.

Just to correct something:
"For thine is the Kingdom" is not the first line of the Lord's Prayer;
rather, it's the fourth-last. The first line is "Our Father, who art in

Craig from Canada
Comment 20 of 255, added on November 13th, 2005 at 2:37 PM.

I believe that the siginificance of the first line of the Lord's prayer are
the hollow men trying to ask God for forgiveness. They keep trying to pray
to him but are unable to get past the first line because they dont actually
believe in what they are saying.

John from United States
Comment 19 of 255, added on October 24th, 2005 at 2:41 PM.

As always the a poem can be analysed anyway, but i also feel that this poem
has a Post Trench War feel. The hollow men are those ravaged by the
horrors, but have survived. They wander the carnage dazed and horrified.
They too should have died. There are much references to "Deaths other
kingdom", and they feel that they are in some horrible purgatory after the
neverending war. The second half of the poem deals with thoughts on
religion and spirtualsim; after all, how can there be a god if he allows
such destruction? They try to remember the Lords prayer, but only get so
far as "For thine is the Kingdom", and the fact that they can never get to
the second part "The power and the glory" shows they feel there is no God
and beleive in nothing. And this is how the world ends, not with a bang
from the war, but the desolation and the lack of spiritualism (theyre
hollow now, if you will). I like to think. Its a powerful reminder on war
that all governments should recall before going to war. Hint hint.

Lee from United Kingdom
Comment 18 of 255, added on October 13th, 2005 at 6:11 PM.

This poem also deals a bit with disillusionment after WWI. Eliot's line at
the end of section 2, "behaving as the wind behaves", can be connected with
the world's belief that great things would happen after the war and in
reality the post-war era included nothing but sadness. you can hear the
wind, but you can't see it

Brandon from United States
Comment 17 of 255, added on October 3rd, 2005 at 12:00 PM.

to SN -
The Shadow falls between the idea/reality, motion/act, not ambiguously
amoung these concepts. The idea is what is worshipped, the concept thrown
out. The motion is worshipped, the act carelessly discarded. The fifth
section, at least, is a direct reference to religion (for thine is the
kingdom, etc.), and what he is trying to tell us about religion is that it
is focusing in the wrong places (the shadow). The poem makes absolutely
direct connections to religion, and whether or not there are other things
in it about war or sexuality, the religious references are there. Also, no
one yet has commented on the fact that the world ends in a whimper. If it
was referencing war, the world would end in a bang. The world ends in a
whimper because of these peoples screwed up beliefs and lack of testicles.
They choose to not pursue their own religious beliefs, so they wind up
following other hollow men into nothingness.

Kid from United States
Comment 16 of 255, added on August 25th, 2005 at 2:52 AM.

I have been rather depressed by the Mr. Neilsen comment concerning "sexual
context" in the poem. Well, it certainly is freudian-like but apart from
agreeing with the comment about reading Konrad's novel, I'd also like to
add that from my point of view the poem also has to do with Dante's
Inferno, since these are not "lost violent souls" but "the hollow men, the
stuffed men", though, naturally, Dante is not enough to be able to
appreciate Eliot's poetry properly. As for "freudian" comments, I think
that they merely simplify things, thus leaving interpreters no chance to
really understand poetry or anything else. The comment in question shows
quite explicitly how a philosophical masterpiece may be spoiled by a
careless reader.

Samuel from Russia

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Information about The Hollow Men

Poet: T.S. Eliot
Poem: The Hollow Men
Volume: The Hollow Men
Year: 1925
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 9329 times
Poem of the Day: Sep 10 2013

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