The Hollow Men Summary English Literature Essay

The verse form begins with two epigraphs: one is a citation from Joseph ConradsA Heart of DarknessA noting on the decease of the doomed characterA Kurtz. The other is an look used by English schoolchildren who want money to purchase pyrotechnics to observe Guy Fawkes Day. On this vacation, people burn straw images of Fawkes, who tried toA blow up the British Parliament back in the seventeenth century.

The verse form is narrated by one of the “ Hollow Men. ”

In the first subdivision of the verse form, a clump of Hollow Men are tilting together like straw mans. Everything about them is every bit dry as the Sahara Desert, including their voices and their organic structures. Everything they say and do is meaningless. They exist in a province like Hell, except they were excessively timid and cowardly to perpetrate the violent Acts of the Apostless that would hold gained them entree to Hell. They have non crossed over theA River StyxA to do it to either Heaven or Hell. The people who have crossed over retrieve these cats as “ hollow work forces. ”

In the 2nd subdivision, one hollow adult male is afraid to look at people who made it to “ decease ‘s dream land ” – either Heaven or Hell. The Hollow Men live in a universe of broken symbols and images.

The 3rd subdivision of the verse form describes the scene as wastes and filled with cacti and rocks. When the Hollow Men experience a desire to snog person, they are unable to. Alternatively, they say supplications to interrupt rocks.

In the 4th subdivision, the hollow adult male from Section 2 continues to depict his vacant, bare milieus, in which are no “ eyes. ” The Hollow Men are afraid to look at people or to be looked at.

The fifth and concluding subdivision begins with a baby’s room rime modeled on the vocal “ Here we go ’round the mulberry shrub, ” except alternatively of a mulberry bush the kiddies are circling a bristly pear cactus. The talker describes how a “ shadow ” has paralyzed all of their activities, so they are unable to move, make, react, or even exist. He tries citing looks that begin “ Life is really long ” and “ For Thine is the Kingdom, ” but these, excessively, interrupt off into fragments. In the concluding lines, the “ Mulberry Bush ” vocal turns into a vocal about the terminal of the universe. You might anticipate the universe to stop with a immense, bright detonation, but for the Hollow Men, the universe ends with a sad and quiet “ whine. ”

Epigraph

First Epigraph

Mistah Kurtz-he dead.

The first epigraph is a quotation mark from a retainer in Joseph Conrad’sA Heart of Darkness.

The retainer reveals to the characterA MarlowA that another character namedA KurtzA has merely died.

Conrad ‘s novel is a true authoritative, but we do n’t believe you need to hotfoot out to read it to understand this verse form.

Here ‘s the lowdown: Kurtz is an British tusk bargainer in Africa, and is one of the many Europeans who arrived to work that continent ‘s resources in the 19th and early twentieth centuries. He seems to hold some qualities of illustriousness because he collects more tusk than other bargainers, but in one memorable transition, Marlow suspects Kurtz of being “ hollow to the nucleus ” and missing a human and moral nature. ( Read more. ) The epigraph tells us that, in some sense, the verse form is setA afterA the decease of Kurtz, or person “ hollow ” adult male like him.

Second Epigraph

A penny for the Old Guy

The English celebrate Guy Fawkes Day every November 5th with pyrotechnics and the combustion of small straw work forces or “ images. ”

Guy Fawkes was convicted of seeking to blow up King James I in 1605 by hoarding gunpowder underneath the Parliament edifice. The incident is known as the “ Gunpowder Plot. ” But Fawkes and the gunpowder were discovered before the program went off, and Fawkes gave up the names of his co-conspirators under anguish.

To observe Guy Fawkes Day, English kids inquire for money to fund the detonations of their straw images of Fawkes, so they say, “ A penny for the cat? ” “ Guy ” being his first name. You can read more about itA here.

But there ‘s more. Harmonizing to Ancient Greek mythology, a individual who died would necessitate to payA Charon, the ferryman, with a coin before he would take you across theA River StyxA into the kingdom of decease. So the “ Old Guy ” besides refers to the ancient figure of Charon. Apparently, person is imploring for a “ penny ” to give the ferryman to acquire across the Styx.

Lines 1-4

We are the hollow work forces

We are the stuffed work forces

Leaning together

Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!

Keep custodies everyone, we ‘re traveling to sing a vocal: “ We are the hol-low work forces! We are the stuffed work forces! ”

Well, possibly these lines do n’t work as a Broadway show-stopper, but it is striking that the Hollow Men are singing in chorus, as a group.

At this point, we have no thought where they are.

They are both “ hollow ” and “ stuffed. ” Are n’t these qualities the antonym of one another?

Not if hollow means something like “ missing a bosom, ” or in the Scarecrow ‘s celebrated words fromA The Wizard of Oz: “ If I merely had a encephalon! ”

The Hollow Men are missing something indispensable.

They are besides “ stuffed ” with straw, like an image of Guy Fawkes ( see “ Second Epigraph ” ) or like a straw man.

They are tilting together to back up each other, as if they are scared or can non back up themselves.

We think of a package of sticks being stacked together to organize a lean-to.

They are non happy about their “ excavate ” status, either, but they can merely show their sadness in the one-word exclaiming, “ Alas! ”

This is a bum thing to state, and Eliot knows it. We should n’t anticipate people whose caputs are filled with straw to show themselves deeply.

Lines 5-10

Our dried voices, when

We whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As air current in dry grass

Or rats ‘ pess over broken glass

In our dry basement

The Hollow Men talk without stating anything meaningful.

They speak in a soft “ susurration, ” as if they are afraid that person will hear them.

In an particularly persistent image, their voices are compared to the air current running through dry grass, which sounds like a quiet rattle or scraping.

Or, as a 2nd illustration, the voices sound like the pess of rats sprinkling over pieces of broken glass “ In our dry basement. ”

If both these images make you shudder, you ‘re on the right path. ( If you ‘ve seen theA Lord of the RingsA series, does this remind you of Gollum at all? )

At least we have learned about what the Hollow Men were like on Earth. They had a “ cellar ” like many mean people.

The first stanza uses “ dry ” or “ dried ‘ three times. Eliot wants you to cognize: the Hollow Men are dry and do non hold blood in the venas. They do n’t even hold venas.

To do another comparing with the films, retrieve how the renegade pirates inA The Plagiarists of the CaribbeanA were cursed with being unable to eat or imbibe anything, and so their tegument got dry and they began to fall apart? The Hollow Men have a similar expletive. They are filled with straw, which is a sort of “ dry grass. ”

Lines 11-12

Shape without signifier, shadiness without coloring material,

Paralysed force, gesture without gesture ;

The talker removes himself from the narrative to give four illustrations of other things that have “ missing necessities. ”

Merely like the Hollow Men, these things merely half-exist, because they are losing something else that will do them existent.

The first illustration is “ form without signifier. ”

A form becomes a signifier when it has substance. Otherwise it ‘s merely an empty thought, like the difference between the ball you imagine in your caput ( a form ) and a ball of dough ( a signifier ) .

In the same line of idea, you ca n’t hold a “ shadiness ” without “ colour, ” because “ shadiness ” is a grade of colour. But someway, the Hollow Men have one without the other. ( Besides, Eliot is doing a wordplay on the word “ shadiness, ” which can intend “ shade ” ) .

“ Force ” is the power to move or travel, but “ Paralysed force ” is a force that ca n’t travel or act.

All of these illustrations are contradictory: they would do no sense in the existent universe.

The concluding illustration is “ gesture without gesture. ” Can you do a gesture without traveling?

Here ‘s an exercising: attempt doing the cosmopolitan gesture for “ STOP! ” without traveling a musculus. Can you make it? Not unless you lived in some unusual Hell, which seems to be what we ‘re covering with in this verse form.

Lines 13-18

Those who have crossed

With direct eyes, to decease ‘s other Kingdom

Remember us-if at all-not as doomed

Violent psyche, but merely

As the hollow work forces

The stuffed work forces.

You could read these lines in two ways: 1 ) the Hollow Men are inquiring people who have crossed into “ decease ‘s other Kingdom ” to retrieve them as stuffed and empty work forces and non as violent and awful people ; or 2 ) the Hollow Men are saying as a fact that this is how they have been remembered.

The difference is between “ They remember me like this. . . ” and “ Remember me like this! ”

The word “ crossed ” might remind us of the “ Second Epigraph, ” and the Greek myth where dead psyches must pay Charon to traverse the River Styx to come in the kingdom of the dead.

For some ground, the Hollow Men ne’er made it to the land of the dead. They are stuck in no-man ‘s land.

From a Christian position, “ decease ‘s other Kingdom ” sounds like Heaven, where souls expression with “ direct eyes ” at God.

The Hollow Men do non hold “ direct eyes. ” Do they even have eyes at all?

Beware: we ‘re about to throw more allusions at you.

In peculiar, this whole verse form seems to be inspired by theA Divine ComedyA of Dante Alighieri, the great Italian poet. Eliot was obsessed with Dante. SeriouslyA obsessed.A He borrowed so much from Dante that he should hold to pay royalties.

We think the thought for “ The Hollow Men ” comes fromA Canto 3 of Dante’sA Inferno. In that canto, Dante arrives at the Gatess of Hell and sees a group of people rolling about aimlessly and miserably, with tonss of cryings and howling. As Dante ‘s usher Virgil says, “ They have no hope of decease, and their unsighted life is so low that they are covetous of every other batch. The universe does non allow study of them. Mercy and justness hold them in disdain. Let us non talk of them – expression and base on balls by. ”

To recap: the psyches in Canto 3 of Dante’sA InfernoA ca n’t even decease, they are “ unsighted, ” and the universe will non “ study of ” or retrieve them.

This sounds sort of like our Hollow Men, does n’t it?

As Virgil explains elsewhere in the canto, these psyches did non take sides in the cosmopolitan struggle between good and evil. They thought they lived their lives apart from hard moral inquiries. In a sense, both Dante and Eliot believed that such people are the worst of all, because they are excessively timid or apathetic even to make bad things.

As for “ direct eyes, ” in the other two parts of theA Divine Comedy, A PurgatorioA andA Paradiso, Dante invariably describes the eyes of his great love, the heavenlyA Beatrice. She has the sort of eyes that can see right through a individual ‘s defects and errors. Dante ca n’t conceal anything from her powerful vision. As a celestial psyche, she is besides able to look “ straight ” at God.

Lines 19-28

Eyess I dare non run into in dreams

In decease ‘s dream land

These do non look:

There, the eyes are

Sunlight on a broken column

There, is a tree vacillation

And voices are

In the air current ‘s vocalizing

More distant and more solemn

Than a fading star.

We ‘re get downing to acquire it: the Hollow Men do non desire to look anyone in the eyes. They are timid and frightened.

They worry that the eyes of psyches from Heaven ( “ decease ‘s dream land ” ) will come in into their dreams and seek to do oculus contact.

The talker negotiations about a topographic point out “ there ” where the eyes shine like “ sunshine on a broken column ” and distant voices are carried by the air current, which besides makes a tree sway.

“ There ” could be either in their dreams or in “ decease ‘s dream land. ”

( The verse form ‘s imagination is obscure and inconclusive, so do n’t worry if you ca n’t patch together every last thing. )

We think of the eyes as uncovering truth, and the Hollow Men are afraid to hold the truth of their status revealed.

They are excessively ashamed to face the world of what they have become. They live in a disconnected universe of “ broken ” and “ attenuation ” objects.

Lines 29-38

Let me be no nearer

In decease ‘s dream land

Let me besides wear

Such deliberate camouflages

Rat ‘s coat, crowskin, crossed staffs

In a field

Acting as the air current behaves

No nearer-

Not that concluding meeting

In the dusk land

Excessively bad you ca n’t convey a pirate voice in authorship, otherwise we ‘d rephrase their attitude as, “ Stay back, ye heavenly vermin! ”

The Hollow Men do non desire to travel anyplace near “ decease ‘s dream land, ” for fright of those truth-revealing eyes.

The large intimation is “ crossed staffs, ” which means two wooden poles. They explain their visual aspect as an attempt non to acquire recognized by those examining eyes.

Merely like straw mans that “ act as the air current behaves ” – distortion and turning without way.

The mediocre souls inA Canto 3 of Dante’sA InfernoA besides run about with no intent, another mark that Eliot was inspired by that text.

At the terminal of the subdivision, the psyches vow non to hold a “ concluding meeting ” at “ dusk. ” This meeting could mention to the Last Judgment in Christian divinity and “ dusk ” could mention to the terminal of the universe.

The Hollow Men are afraid of the judgement they ‘ll have when their character is eventually examined by the “ eyes. ” They can merely detain justness, non get away it.

( If you wanted to, you could besides compare images of visible radiation and darkness between this verse form andA Heart of Darkness. )

Lines 39-44

This is the dead land

This is cactus land

Here the rock images

Are raised, here they receive

The invocation of a dead adult male ‘s manus

Under the scintillation of a fading star.

The Hollow Men live in a part that looks like desert where nil lives but cacti that can last without much H2O.

The Hollow Men pray to “ lapidate images, ” which are like false Gods or graven images. The “ dead adult male ” is one of the Hollow Men. They are dead in the sense that they do non hold life, but they besides can non traverse over into the land of decease.

It ‘s like being trapped at a remainder halt on the main road between two finishs.

To “ supplicate ” is to implore or inquire for something, so the Hollow Men are imploring the rocks to assist them out of their muss.

The star might stand for hope or redemption, as stars are normally associated with Heaven. But their hopes are melting fast, and merely a little “ twinkle ” of light remains.

Lines 45-51

Is it like this

In decease ‘s other land

Waking entirely

At the hr when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would snog

Form supplications to interrupt rock.

All of a sudden the Hollow Men are funny about “ decease ‘s other Kingdom. ”

They do n’t truly surmise that things are better in Heaven or anyplace else. Otherwise, they likely would hold tried to acquire at that place.

They want to cognize if people in the other land besides wake up entirely, with warm and tender feelings but no mercantile establishment for them except to pray to a clump of “ broken rock ” images.

If you have read Shakespeare’sA Romeo and Juliet, you might detect that these lines reverse Juliet ‘s claim that saints must utilize their lips for supplication instead than snoging. The Hollow Men pray, but their supplications are profane and corrupted:

Romeo

Have non saints lips, and holy Palmers excessively?

JULIET

Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must utilize in supplication.

Lines 52-56

The eyes are non here

There are no eyes here

In this vale of deceasing stars

In this hollow vale

This broken jaw of our lost lands

The Hollow Men are still worried about those eyes. The eyes from Eden are non present, but the lines besides suggest that the Hollow Men have no vision.

There is another manner to construe this line. “ Eyes ” sounds like “ Is ” , as in, “ TheA Is are non here. ” There are no independent personalities or egos among the group.

Hope continues to melt, as the stars fade or “ die ” off.

The “ vale ” leads us to believe of one a celebrated Psalm from the Bible, that goes, “ Even though I walk through the vale of the shadow of decease, I will fear no immorality, for you are with me ; your rod and your staff, they comfort me ” ( Psalm 23 ) .

They are in a vale of decease, but there is no 1 at that place to soothe them because they ne’er joined with God.

The Hollow Men each used to hold their ain lands – literally or metaphorically – but these lands have been lost or broken like a jaw. Why a jaw?

We ‘re non sureaˆ¦maybe you can state us!

At any rate, here the lone true land is the Kingdom of God, and they had their opportunity to fall in it but did non.

Lines 57-60

In this last of meeting topographic points

We grope together

And avoid address

Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

We eventually larn where the Hollow Men are gathered: on the Bankss of a swollen or “ bombastic ” river.

They are huddled together as if they were traveling to be washed off. The river is practically overruning with H2O, in contrast to the waterlessness of the work forces and the desert around them.

This is the last topographic point that they will run into before they face some more awful destiny.

The river most likely represents Acheron, subdivision of the fabulous River Styx in Greece that souls must traverse into decease.

To do the trip, you would hold to pay Charon, the ferryman, a coin to take you on his boat.

Unfortunately, no 1 has arrived to take these psyches across. They are stranded.

There ‘s nil left to state about their dire state of affairs, so they “ avoid address. ”

InA Canto 3 of Dante’sA Inferno, Dante asks his usher Virgil why psyches are so eager to acquire across Acheron, and Virgil responds that God ‘s justness “ spurs them on ” so that they really want to acquire to Hell Oklahoman.

But the Hollow Men ca n’t even acquire to Hell.

Lines 61-67

Sightless, unless

The eyes reappear

As the ageless star

Multifoliate rose

Of decease ‘s dusk land

The hope merely

Of empty work forces.

The Hollow Men are “ eyeless, ” like a clump of belowground worms, but if the “ eyes ” return their vision could be restored.

Their lone hope is if the celestial eyes come back as a star.

This star would be “ ageless ” or ageless, unlike the “ attenuation ” or “ deceasing ” stars in the desert. By now you ‘ve likely noticed that Eliot is throwing about symbols like confect at a Fourth of July parade.

A “ multifoliate ” rose has many petals. Here once more Eliot is mentioning to – conjecture who? – Dante Alighieri.

In Dante’sA Paradiso, the concluding vision of Eden is of a flower made up of saints, angels, and other illustrations of goodness and virtuousness. The community of Heaven is like a rose with petals made of people. Dante besides compares Mary, the female parent of Jesus, to a rose.

The point of these lines is that the Hollow Men can non salvage themselves. They have no hope except for the Heavenly souls to come down and reconstruct their vision of truth and goodness.

Lines 68-71

Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear bristly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o’clock in the forenoon.

Admit it: if you had to blindly wait on the Bankss of a river until the terminal of clip, you might fall in custodies and get down singing “ Here we go ’round the mulberry shrub, ” excessively.

And if you did n’t hold a mulberry shrub, good, so you ‘d merely hold to sing about the “ bristly pear ” cactus.

“ Here we go ’round the mulberry shrub ” is a kids ‘s vocal about people dancing around the shrub “ so early in the forenoon. ”

Eliot really gives the clip at which they are dancing: 5 o’clock in the forenoon.

Harmonizing to one commentary on the verse form, “ 5:00 a.m. is the traditional clip of Christ ‘s Resurrection ” ( beginning ) .

The Resurrection is the most of import minute in the Christ narrative, but here the Hollow Men are executing a kids ‘s dance around a cactus, wholly incognizant of the significance of the clip.

Lines 72-76

Between the thought

And the world

Between the gesture

And the act

Falls the Shadow

If you look back to lines 12-13, you ‘ll retrieve the list of “ losing necessities, ” or things that are missing some indispensable constituent, like “ gesture without gesture. ”

In this concluding subdivision of the verse form, Eliot presents a similar thought.

For the Hollow Men, some cryptic “ shadow ” has fallen between some possible for action and the action itself to forestall them forA doingA anything.

They have “ thoughts ” but can non convey them into “ world. ”

They can “ travel ” but non organize their motions into “ action. ”

The “ shadow ” falls like an Fe drape to barricade their purposes.

Line 77

For Thine is the Kingdom

The Hollow Men get down to state portion of a supplication but do non complete it. “ For Thine is the Kingdom ” is portion of the stoping to theA Lord ‘s PrayerA that goes: “ For thine is the land, and the power, and the glorification, for of all time and of all time. Amons. ”

You get the feeling that if the Hollow Men couldA justA get to the terminal of the supplication, possibly they would be saved.

You ‘ll detect that the word “ land ” has been used a batch in this verse form. God has his everlasting land in Heaven, and the Hollow Men had their “ lost lands. ”

Lines 78-83

Between the construct

And the creative activity

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

Life is really long

Here comes that Shadow once more. “ Concept ” is the minute of gestation or the beginning of thought, but “ creative activity ” is when that being comes into being.

An “ emotion ” is a mental province, but a response is an action ensuing from that province.

The shadow prevents one thing from taking of course to the other.

If you went to the physician and he or she tapped your articulatio genus with that small gum elastic cock, and you had no physical response, it would be a job.

The stanza ends with the beginning of another statement: “ Life is really long. ”

You can about here the Hollow Men suspiring tiredly as they say that, as if they are bored and worn down.

Compared to infinity, of class, life is pretty short.

Lines 84-91

Between the desire

And the cramp

Between the authority

And the being

Between the kernel

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

The verse form gives three more illustrations of the Shadow ‘s dirty work. It prevents “ desire ” from going the “ cramp ” of sexual satisfaction – that is, climax.

It besides comes between possible or “ authority ” and being, and between the higher “ kernel ” of things and the “ descent ” of this kernel into our physical universe.

In instance Eliot is acquiring excessively philosophical, here ‘s a simpler manner of seting it: the Shadow prevents things that should of course follow from one another from go oning.

The stanza ends, once more, with a fragment of theA Lord ‘s Prayer. They still ca n’t state any more than this one portion of the supplication.

Lines 92-94

For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the

The Hollow Men repeat the disconnected lines from the terminal of the last three stanzas, but this clip chopped down even further.

They merely drag off, as if they ca n’t retrieve how the remainder goes or hold slipped into some semi-conscious province.

Cut them some slack, though: their caputs are filled with straw.

Lines 95-98

This is the manner the universe ends

This is the manner the universe ends

This is the manner the universe ends

Not with a knock but a whine.

They pick up once more with another brainsick version of the “ Mulberry Bush ” vocal. The vocal provides small lessons about how to make jobs around the house, like “ This is the manner we wash our apparels ” and “ This is the manner we sweep the floor. ” ( Read the full vocal. )

( Wow, that vocal is wholly merely a manner to flim-flam childs into making work! )

In Eliot ‘s version, the Hollow Men are singing about how the universe ends as they dance around the bristly pear.

These lines are the most celebrated and often repeated lines in the verse form.

The universe ends non with a “ knock ” like you might anticipate, with some immense war between angels and devils, but with a “ whine, ” like a defeated puppy.

The inquiry is, does the universe terminal this manner for everyone, or merely for the Hollow Men? Keep in head that they are the 1s singing.

The terminal of the universe is, in a word, anticlimactic.