“The Hollow Men” -T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliots “The Hollow Men” explores the themes of death and coming to terms with life. It begins with a parallel structure that pairs two contrary ideas: “hollow men” and “stuffed men” (I). This suggests people can be full of thoughts and ideas (metaphorically stuffed) yet still hollow as none of the ideas has any true weight, or any true significance taken on its own. Eliot calls the men’s whispers “quiet and meaningless” further asserting this concept. The idea concept is mentioned again near the end of the poem when Eliot talks about the “shadow” “between the idea and the reality” (V). This hollow yet stuffed duality is used to frame the first part of the poem.

Eyes and stars both function as important symbols throughout the poem. They eyes can be the eyes of death which the narrator claims he “dare not meet in dreams / in death’s dream kingdom” (II). This shows an unwillingness to directly face death suggesting that the hollow men, while contemplating death are not truly facing it. Perhaps this is why their ideas concerning it are hollow and meaningless. Stars function in much the same way, as a distant and solemn pair of eyes, looking on at the events of the world with indifference. The fading star though, represents a death that is far off, and thus seemingly insignificant.

The final section is the most intreaguing part of the poem. Eliot points out the fine gap between many things such as “between the conception and the creation” (V). This is very thought-provoking, separating events that seem so closely tied. The shadow Eliot refers to is the unknown. When an idea is conceived along with it comes the desire for it be realized, yet how to turn it into reality will take another idea altogether.

The final stanza is perhaps the most important to the whole poem. The repetition of “This is the way the world ends” emphasizes that the question asked by the hollow men is being answered. “Not with a bang but a whimper” seems to suggest that life doesn’t end in some grand explosion, but rather it ends on an individual basis. The world ends for each person as they die, just as the world ends for a far off fading star when it finally gives out. Thus Eliot presents a largely individualistic look at life and death.

-B

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One Response to ““The Hollow Men” -T.S. Eliot”

  1. apenglishihhs Says:

    You are quite perceptive when it comes to thinking about symbolism.

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