Analysis of "The Hollow Men"

T.S. Eliot's Childhood and Schooling
Eliot's New Life
The Career of T.S. Eliot
The Later Years and Legacy of Thomas Stearns Eliot
Bilbliography for Bio
"The Hollow Men"
Analysis of "The Hollow Men"
"The Waste Land"
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
"Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats"

One of T.S. Eliot's most remarkable works is undoubtedly "The Hollow Men." At the time Eliot wrote this poem the post-war world was suffering and he began to explore new religious beliefs. Spirituality is an underlying theme that occurs throughout the poem.

By simply reading this it seems that the poem is extremely vague, yet it is that vagueness and impalpability that creates complexity. The poem is full of several paradoxes, which include "We are the hollow men, We are the stuffed men", "Shape without form", "Shade without color", and "Paralyzed force, gesture without motion." Eliot uses a great amount of alliteration. Some examples throughout the poem are "prickly pear", "death's dream", "trembling with tenderness", and "...cost, crowskin, crossed ..."

One of the themes is spirituality. Eliot suggests that we have to be strong spiritually because our life in this world is not permanent. We eventually make it to the afterlife or "death's other Kingdom." There are two different sides of our eternity and that depends on who you are. We are either the "stuffed men" who are strong and full of faith; or we are the "hollow men" who lack confidence in faith. There are two different "kingdoms", the stuffed men move on to "death's dream kingdom"; while the hollow men are left to go to "death's other kingdom."

This kingdom of the hollow men is this dead land. The land is symbolic for the post-war world. This land is stagnant and like a delusion. This land is hopeless, which was exactly Eliot's view of his desolate world. These hollow men were fully responsible for what they did, because of their lack of faith and they were left to suffer. "The eyes" refers to the positive and good people or the stuffed men. In this empty land "the eyes are not here, there are no eyes here." These people fulfilled their duty to their faith and the deserve their multifoliate rose (symbolic for paradise.)

In the poem the hollow men "avoid speech" because they are now meaningless. They are left like this just for the sake of existence. Eliot then discusses how life is long and includes desire. And the desires in your life can be responsible for your future. Eliot describes how you are accountable for whatever you do, and your fate (the two different kingdoms) is dependent on your choices in life.

Eliot concludes the poem by saying that more and more people are losing their faith and making the wrong choices in life. The existence of those stuffed men is coming to an end and can result in the end of the world; the world will become that dead land. That is why we must restrain from these hollow lives and lead more meaningful lives. "This is the way the world ends." Like the desolate land the end will be meaningless, "This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but with a whimper."