Compare/Contrast: “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Hollow Men”

Both “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Hollow Men” examine enlightenment, life, and death. In each the narrator (or main characters) come to terms with death. Yeats’ old man teaches his soul to sing, thus enlightening himself and preparing for death. In the second section of “Hollow Men” the narrator expresses a reluctance to look death in the “eyes.” Yet by the end of the poem the reader is left facing death, with that final stanza proclaiming “this is the way the world ends.” Each also decries worldly things as a whole, elevating a sort of enlightenment as what we should truly strive for.

They differ in that “Sailing to Byzantium” has a much more positive and optimistic outlook on life, whereas “Hollow Men” has a darker tone and more pessimistic feel. For example, in the end of “Sailing to Byzantium” the old man, the narrator, is genuinely happy and at peace. In contrast, the ending stanza of “Hollow Men” has a dark and pernicious feel to it. Both confront death, but each does so with a different view



One Response to “Compare/Contrast: “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Hollow Men””

  1. apenglishihhs Says:

    Ah yes, the topic of death – I agree with your assessment of the differing tones.

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