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The Hollow Men

T.S. Eliot

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definitely not the worst.
Added by: SHelley
hard to understand...yes, but definitely not the worst.
Hollow men
Added by: Adina
I am under the belief that this poem is in reference to WW1. "Broken glass", representing shattered dreams of the returning hollow soldiers. The coolest lines- to me- are "Or rat's feet over broken glass in our dry celler". This a reference to Dante's Inferno if anyone has heard of it, which portrays hell filled with rats walkin on broken glass... rats being sinners. Here Eliot portrays the soldiers as rats, as if they feel degraded, trapped, and reppeled by humanity's misunderstandings. The rats cut themselves in their own shattered dreams, the broken glass, which is paradoxical in a way. The glass can be said to come from the broken wine bottles that make up the "dry cellar". Wine is thought to be the flavor of life, and THAT to these hollow men, these hopeless degraded witnesses of death, has dried out and they are left literally empty of substance. I read those lines and that's what came in my mind, maybe I'm over analysing, but i guess that's the advantage of interpreting the work of a dead poet, no one can really prove what he meant:)
"Life is very long"
Added by: Kai
That quote comes from another text by Eliot in which a man is stuck on an island...or something.
'The Hollow Men' - T.S. Eliot
Added by: Kiri
I'd have to say that upon reading this poem and helping my friend in AP Lit. translate it, I'd have to say that this poem reaches farther than most people on this page have said.

The Hollow Men, one could infer, are scarecrows. They could very well be. They long for life, but upon reading and pondering, it has become more than obvious that they are more lifelike than they know they are. They are like us humans--they fear not death, but rather, the uncertainty of where their souls will go when they die.

Many people don't see the signifigance of the Lord's Prayer in the poem, but it's quite simple: these Hollow Men know that death is after them, and they know that when people die, there are 3 places to go--Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. They've no faith before reciting the Prayer, so their only choices are Hell or Purgatory.

This shadow, isn't literally a 'shadow' but rather death, the supreme punishment of sin. Hardcore Christians say the Lord's Prayer when they ask to be forgiven from their sin.

Upon stating that, you should realize that in part IV, they speak of the Multifoliate Rose. This is pulled from a reference to Dante, who believed that God was the center of a flower, and all his followers were petals, clustered around him.

This rose is a guide, but since they've not the ability of sight, they cannot see it, and therefore, cannot follow. The lack of sight is an extreme symbolism to their lack of Faith.

But then, why the Prayer? Simple, they fear going to Hell so, they say the Prayer asking to be forgiven.

'Not with a bang, but with a whimper.'
The Ending
Added by: Alex
The ending of the poem suggests that the world will not end suddenly (in an explosion, for instance) but that it is, even now, slowly fading towards its final. In exception to the dinasaurs, all species become extinct not suddenly, but after years and year of disintegration, until there is only one left, then none. Likewise, the film Apocalypse Now, which quotes the poem, ends very quietly with a triple exposure of a tribal head, Willard's face, and the ever-recurring helicopter, which seems to shoot out of Willard's ear. The last words of the film are the whimpers of a dying man "Horror, the horror."
Added by: Richard Chuck
I don't think that this poem is a critique of humanity, in so much as it is not criticizing a lack of spirituality, or lack of goodness or anything... the poem does not work like that.

Similarly i don't think this poem is describing an event or a group of people concerned with an event, there is no cohesive pattern which indicatest this, although there are possible allusions.

Rather, i see this poem as being a quite simple exposition of the human condition. V is especially poignant.

"Between the emotion/ and the response/ Falls the Shadow"

lines like those above in conjunction to the reference to Kurtz shows the view of the narrator of humans operating within a universe of brute fact
Added by: 77
as stated before, the line "life is very long, comes from Outcast of the Islands, by joseph conrad- As for the rest of the poem, i find it extremely interesting. The entire thing leaves room for many varying interpretations; from the meaning of life to the wizard of OZ. although the wwI theory is valid, i think that it is more probable that this was more a secondary alegory than the main subject. I would really like to talk to Eliot and ask him his meanings, but unfortunately, he has passed on into some kingdom.
brilliance of this poem
Added by: jackson
The best part of this poem in my view is that different people interpret symbols in different ways and that is what i based my essay on. My favorite reading is that it is a blatant attack on the hedonism of the swinging 20's. But more importatnly an attack on the buildings in which people began to work in the 20's, "Here the stone images are raised", "Lips that would kiss form prayers to the Broken Stone".
Personal analysis of The Hollow Man
Added by: Homerus
this poem is one of the srangest Ihave read, it is full of despair as much as hope, it is both a death and a renaissance or what I may call a resurrection.

the cactus which is a symbol of the desert ; a hostile place is in itself a source of water!!!

To be continued.....
Added by: lindsey
the imagery in the poem is the key to unlocking the meaning. the imagery also conveys the tone which is key to understanding and also shifts in part III...in my ap english class we were required to "draw" the poem. it helped quite a bit.

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