Notes on the hollow men


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Notes on the hollow men

  1. 1. KARL MARX VIEWSWhen Karl Marx was commissioned to write a manifesto for the communist future, hewrote in absolutist terms. He believed that the only way that workers, oppressed under aform of industrial slavery, could only improve their lot in life was through violentrevolution and through rapid changes in the ways that government ruled.But the incorporation of Marxist thoughts and principles into the western industrializedworld did not come through sudden, overwhelming, and violent revolution, but throughyears, even decades of battle to improve the lives and conditions of workers. The Americanunionist movement did not begin, grow, become an overwhelming force, then go intodecline very rapidly at all.This indicates that Marxist principles are not only not obsolete, they were not as absolutein their construct or predictions as he thought that they should be. There were other waysbeside whole scale, violent revolution to end oppression of the American worker, just asthere are other ways for workers, or the "proletariat" to gain a larger share of the profitsfrom their labor than the complete dismantling and reconstruction of society.And there were ways that are labeled as "Marxist" in origin and concept, but which areboth far from Marxist and which are unique to the countries in which they originated.Social Security, a system to guarantee that workers paid into, then recieve retirement ordisability income, is a uniquely American entity, as is Medicare. These were not Marxistprinciples that involved the destruction, then rebuilding of the American government, butunique and positive creations of the American government.Marx was absolute in his belief that the industrial worker would completely lose hisconnection to nature as the source of sustenance, and become slave to the machine as themain source of money, which could buy sustenance. While most developed countries canin no way function on an agrarian model these days, and while most workers in developedcountries do not have an agrarian or natural way of making a living, there is moreconnection to and love of nature than ever. Even in tightly packed urban centers, there areways to get to and to interact with nature, care for and honor the environment, and livelifestyles that incorporate natural, rather than artificial elements than ever before.Marx never foresaw urban, regional, or national planning, where parks, naturalmonuments, and even incorporating landscaping into new communities, as a possibility.American efforts to preserve natural wonders, set aside protected wilderness, and takemassive tracts of lands into the public trust for the benefit of all citizens, were simply not apart of Marxs construct, which predicted a complete loss of the freedom that a natural lifeallows, when all citizens became urbanized, industrialized drones.Marx also never predicted the deurbanization of industry, where factories and industrialoperations did not need to be confined to filthy, over built and over populated cities.Marx was also wrong in considering the laborer, himself as a commodity. It was thelaborers skills and work that was the commodity, as the elite in Edwardian England foundout when their servants no longer had to work under the even more horrific conditions thatthey suffered as servants, and could choose to work in industry. Marx did not envision thatdeveloped countries could broaden educational and job skill development so that far more 1
  2. 2. of the public had far more opportunity to achieve specialized technical educations, or evenhigher educations at the best institutions in the land.Marx did not envision a military that actually released better educated and trainedindividuals back into society, where the GI Bill allowed many of them to attend college,and to enter the field of their choice.The concept of five day work weeks, vacation and holiday time, and sick leave aredefinitely Marxist style improvements for the workers in highly developed countries, andso is unemployment insurance and workers compensation insurance. But Marx simplycould not foresee that these improvements could happen without a complete revolutionaryoverthrow and restructuring of government.While Marxist ideas and Marxist thought originally sought to improve the lot of theindustrialized and oppressed worker, not all improvements have been because of Marxistthought or principles, or under the conditions that he believed were mandatory. As a result,his thought was absolutist, but is not obsolete.Nor has his thought been as influential in the development of modern work as manybelieve it to be. These days, it is a capitalists world. Workers are scrambling to maintaintheir lifestyles, and to express their demands of government in battle while insanelyinfluential capitalist interests are equally, if not more powerful in getting government tobear their interests in mind first.HOLLOW MEN IN THE LIGHT OF MARXISMA uniform hangs in the shadows inside the ruined temple, the name printed on it KURTZ.Water drips from somewhere, a voice recites TS Eliot, books lie in bronze light and younotice that this jungle library includes The Golden Bough. Of course it does. Its a book toread at the end of the river.First published in 1890 by the Scottish anthropologist JG Frazer, The Golden Bough hashad a more powerful influence on modern literature and cinema than Freud or Marx. Avast essay on comparative religion, it traced the roots of Christianity in folklore, of sciencein magic, and did so with the vulgarity of a bestseller. To know that Kurtz, in Francis FordCoppolas Apocalypse Now, is a reader of The Golden Bough is to see him as a priest-kingwhom Martin Sheens assassin must ritually slaughter, himself to become the new King ofthe Wood.The chief literary source for Apocalypse Now is Eliot, whose 1925 poem "The HollowMen" Marlon Brando recites for Dennis Hopper:"We are the hollow menWe are the stuffed men 2
  3. 3. Leaning togetherHeadpiece stuffed with straw. Alas!"Three years earlier, Eliot had acknowledged his debt to Frazer in "The Waste Land",writing of a "work of anthropology ... which has influenced our generation profoundly; Imean The Golden Bough". Eliots generation - the modernists - were all victims, survivorsor fortunately distant witnesses of the mass sacrificial slaughter of European youth of thefirst world war. And there is a startling image in The Golden Bough that casts new light onthe wars resonance for this generation. ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF T.S. ELIOT’S THE HOLLOW MENTable of contents1 Introduction.1.1. Description and aims of the paper.1.2. The introductory epigraph.2 The poem: The Hollow Men.3 Analysis, interpretation and discussion.3.1. Main linguistic, rhetoric and aesthetic devices used.3.2. Interpretation and discussion.4 Conclusion.1. Introduction.1.1. DESCRIPTION AND AIMS OF THE PAPER. Eliot, a master of the written craft, carefully thought out each aspect of his 1925poem The Hollow Men. Many differences in interpretation exist for Eliot’s complexpoetry, since we find an extensive range of facts to consider in this work. As Eliot oftenintertwined his writing by having one piece relate to another, The Hollow Men issometimes considered as a mere appendage to The Wasteland. The Hollow Men, however,proves to have many offerings for a reader in and among itself. Following the idea above, the poem will be treated in isolation in this paper, tryingto unravel all the figures, symbols and meanings that Eliot wished to transmit through TheHollow Men, reading onto and between the lines. 3
  4. 4. Firstly, we will work on an intensive analysis, describing and explaining asaccurately as possible all the linguistic, rhetoric and aesthetic devices found in the text,such as repetition, foregrounding, deixis, symbols and images, rhyme and rhythm. This issomething that will help us understand in a better way the deep structure of the poem andits relationship with the meaning(s) involved. At this stage we will look at the poem as awhole, since similar devices are used all along, paying special attention to the last part(section 5), which is visibly different from the rest. Secondly, and taking into account the previous analysis, we will perform aninterpretation of the poem, this time working each part in isolation, revealing their meaningas if we were dealing with five different `chapters´ of the same story, in order to obtain anddiscuss the main ideas and senses contained. In the conclusion, all the ideas explained before will be put in common, tracing afinal outline of The Hollow Men together with a personal approach sketching myimpressions about it.1.2. THE INTRODUCTORY EPIGRAPH. Now, taking a quick look at the poem, we appreciate that it starts with an epigraph,which contains two pertinent references.Mistah Kurtz –he dead.A penny for the Old Guy. First, Mistah Kurtz –he dead is an allusion to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. In hisnovella, Conrad portrays the empty nature of men. Mister Kurtz, an European slave traderwho had travelled to Africa in order to go on with his business, is a character who lacks asoul, thus, a true `Hollow Man´, as we’ll see afterwards. Here, we have to highlight acouple of striking aspects. On one hand, the `phonetic´ spelling of `Mister´, which changesinto Mistah. On the other hand, the ellipsis of the verb `to be´ in he dead. This proves thatthe speaker is probably some kind of non-native English speaker who uses a pidgin or acreole language (a slave, if we look back at Conrad’s novel). But, why a slave? Probablybecause he represents another kind of `hollow man´ -a passive soul, humble, but passive.What’s more, it seems that this verse is the answer for a question like `Where’s MisterKurtz?´, as if we didn’t know that he (is) (already) dead. This idea of `ignored death´related to `emptiness´ will be subsequently developed through the poem. 4
  5. 5. In the second quotation the epigraph alludes to England’s November 5th tradition ofGuy Fawkes Day. In 1605, Guy Fawkes unsuccesfully tried to blow up the Parliamentbuilding. Eliot’s quote A penny for the Old Guy is called out on this holiday by childrenwho are attempting to buy fireworks in order to burn straw figures of Fawkes. In this verseOld and Guy are written with capital letters, emphasising the fact that the puppet representsa `poor, old, mortal fellow´ who needs to be given a few alms. In any case, we must noticethe vagueness of the sentence, as the Old Guy does not make reference to any specificcharacter or person, and we wouldn’t have guessed who Eliot is addressing if we didn’tknow the cultural background mentioned before. Even so, what’s the relationship that these two verses have? This epigraph seems tohark back longingly for even such monstruous men who at last believed in what they weredoing, however horrific the results, setting up a natural contrast to the hollowness ofmodern man, who fundamentally believes in nothing and is, therefore, empty at the core ofhis being, like a Guy Fawkes dummy, or a Fallas’ ninot, if we bear in mind the well-knowncelebration in Valencia (Spain). So, two different types of `hollow/stuffed men´ arepresented: he who lacks a soul (Mister Kurtz) and he who lacks a real body (Guy Fawkesdummy), representing both physical and spiritual emptiness. Within the first two verses Eliot establishes the setting and theme and begins arythmic pattern that will hold true for at least four of the five sections of the poem. Now let’s concentrate on the text, which is divided in five sections thatimmediately follow the epigraph.2. The poem: The Hollow Men, written in 1925 by Thomas Stearns Eliot. Published thesame year.Mistah Kurtz –he dead.A penny for the Old Guy.I1 We are the hollow men, We are the stuffed men. Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!5 Our dried voices, when We whisper together, Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rat’s feet over broken glass10 In our dry cellar. 5
  6. 6. Shape without form, shade without color, Paralyzed force, gesture without motion; Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom15 Remember us –if at all- not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men, The stuffed men.II Eyes I dare not meet in dreams20 In death’s dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column. There, is a tree swinging25 And voices are In the wind’s singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star. Let me be no nearer30 In death’s dream kingdom. Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises: Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field35 Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer- Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom.III This is the dead land,40 This is the cactus land. Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man’s hand Under the twinkle of a fading star.45 Is it like this, In death’s other kingdom Walking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness.50 Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone. 6
  7. 7. IV The eyes are not here, There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars,55 In this hollow valley, This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms. In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech,60 Gathered on this beach of the tumid river Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star, Multifoliate rose65 Of death’s twilight kingdom. The hope only Of empty men.V Here we go ‘round the prickly pear, Prickly pear, prickly pear.70 Here we go ‘round the prickly pear At five o’clock in the morning. Between the idea And the reality, Between the motion75 And the act, Falls the Shadow. For Thine is the Kingdom. Between the conception And the creation,80 Between the emotion And the response, Falls the Shadow. Life is very long. Between the desire85 And the spasm, Between the potency And the existence, Between the essence And the descent,90 Falls the Shadow. 7
  8. 8. For Thine is the Kingdom. For Thine is Life is For Thine is the95 This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.3. ANALYSIS, INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION.3.1. Main linguistic, rhetoric and aesthetic devices used in the poem.Repetition Repetition is the most important and abundant feature in this poem, which employsabout 180 different words in a work 420 words long. Not only does it connect differentsections of the poem, but it even appears within the same line (behaving as the windbehaves, line 35). In lines 1-2 we see the first repetition in the poem. In this case, we’re dealing with astructural repetition (we are the hollow men; we are the stuffed men). This structureSubject + to be + copula will be used again in the first lines of part III (this is the deadland; this is the cactus land) and part IV (the eyes are not here; there are no eyes here). Thisproves that the author reinforces, through repetition, the description of states andexistences using the verb to be in Present Simple. At the end of Part I, the first couple ofverses is repeated again (as the hollow men, the stuffed men), enclosing the whole idea ofhollowness and emptiness. In lines 11-12 (shape without form, shade without colour,paralyzed force, gesture without motion) the structure A without B, C without D seems tobe highlighting the main themes in the poem: meaninglessness, nothingness and paralysis,in the case that we had treated shape/form, shade/colour and gesture/motion as synonymsin some way. Therefore, all these concepts are `cancelling´ each other by a system of`binary opposition´, present as well in part V (between the idea and the reality, between themotion and the act falls the Shadow, etc). The lexical and semantic pattern in lines 11-12 isrelated to the one in part V:Between the aAnd the b, 8
  9. 9. Between the cAnd the dFalls the Shadow In this case, the opposition between a, b, c and d (idea/reality, motion/act,conception/creation, emotion/response, desire/spasm, potency/existence, essence/descent)completes a series of structured stanzas that comprehend both `prospect´ and `fulfillment´together with `failure´ in the last verse (Falls the Shadow). So, we appreciate again the ideaof paralyzed force (line 12), unfulfillment and stasis. Of course, the repetition of ideas and words is numerous all along the poem. Themost commonly repeated items are the eyes (mentioned in lines 14, 19, 22, 52, 53 and 62)the voices (described in lines 7-10 and 25-28), the stars and many references to death’sother kingdom, which appears throughout the poem with different names (death’s dreamkingdom, twilight kingdom, this last of meeting places, death’s twilight kingdom, thisvalley of dying stars, this broken jaw of our lost kingdoms, etc). However, we’ll see theirmeaning within the poem in the interpretation. Another kind of repetition is carried out through negation (Eyes I dare not meet indreams; these do not appear; let me be no nearer; no nearer; not that final meeting; the eyesare not here; there are no eyes here). Eliot uses negation as an expression of sorrow andguilt, trying to avoid the unevitability of death (no nearer –not that final meeting in thetwilight kingdom). Part V, however, changes in a radical way the tone of the previous sections of thepoem. In it we find a children’s song the main element of which is repetition (lines 68-71).The verve of the nursery rhyme spins us round in a sinister way, since it disturbs thefamiliar mulberry bush replaced with the arid prickly pear, making the rhyme like somedistorted survival of a primitive chant. Eliot’s substitution makes this seem an infertilitydance. The sentences from the Lord’s prayer (For Thine is the Kingdom) are confused bythe addition of a complaint in the same typographical form (Life is very long) and then wefind a tripartite distinction of truncated verses in lines 92-94, as if we had to `fill in thegaps´ to complete them. This fact supports the idea of infertility and emptiness. The laststanza recalls the opening nursery rhyme chorus, but gives it a universal voice whichseems to include all that we’ve heard before in what is now a ritual chant with anappropriately childlike sound:This is the way the world ends.This is the way the world ends. 9
  10. 10. This is the way the world ends.Not with a bang but a whimper. It has been demonstrated that repetition is the fundamental element of The HollowMen, as it can be found from the very beginning to the very end, not only emphasisingstructures, words and ideas, but also giving us the impression of rituality and paralysis ofthe actions taking place. Everything in this poem is circular, repetitive and somewhatabsurd, like a group of children dancing and singing round a prickly pear.FOREGROUNDING Foregrounding can be defined as the standing out of certain elements by severalmeans. In The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot uses different literary mechanisms in order toforeground items. Repetition, as it’s just been explained, may be considered as a way offoregrounding, but there are many others as we will see. If we read the first two lines (We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men), wewill clearly appreciate that two words are blindlingly obvious: hollow and stuffed. Thesehighlighted words make us see the binary opposition mentioned before and get sticked intoour minds as if the rest of the words in the verses where they’re included did not exist. Thisway of foregrounding also appears at the beginning of part III (this is the dead land, this isthe cactus land), so now we’ve just been given the image of the men and the place that thepoem is talking about. The beginning of part IV is similar, but in those verses the emphasisfalls on the negation (the eyes are not here, there are no eyes here). Therefore, we couldaffirm that this way of foregrounding is strongly linked to repetition, because theforegrounded items appear in sequences of identic utterances (see part V’s between the aand the b, between the c and the d, etc). Nevertheless, many other devices are used to reach this effect. In line 4, Headpieceis foregrounded, as it appears at the beginning of a noun clause, emphasising the fact that itis the `headpiece´, and not another part of the hollow/stuffed men, what is `filled withstraw´. The same happens in line 19, where the Eyes, functioning as a direct object, appearat the beginning of the sentence. In part II, a tree (line 26) is also foregrounded as itoccupies a place we wouldn’t expect (There, is a tree swinging), after the verb `to be´ andbefore the continous tense. Another mechanism of foregrounding is used when individual items or ideas appearalone in a whole verse (and voices are, line 25; in a field, line 34; no nearer, line 36;walking alone, line 47; in this hollow valley, line 55; sightless, unless, line 61; multifoliate 10
  11. 11. rose, line 64). This reveals the fact that the rythm of the poem is rather slow and moves infits and starts, due to the abundance of short, enjambed sentences all along. The repetition –and thus, foregrounding- of deictic marks (we, those, these, us, me,there, here, this) from part I to part IV shows us the extreme importance that the subjectsand places described in Eliot’s work have. Through their analysis, we will indicate in detailthe setting and the `poetic persona(e)´ in The Hollow Men.DEIXIS The deictic marks indicate the space, the time and the person –or persons- takingpart in a textual situation. The Hollow Men is completely full of them. Let’s look backagain at the first couple of verses. The We mentioned, obviously refers to the speaker, butalso to other people. However, its meaning is rather vague, as we don’t really know if itrefers to `me and you and others´, `me and you but not others´ or `me and others but notyou´. In any case, the speaker is implied within the state of being a `hollow, stuffed man´,and so are all the rest of `subjects´ to whom We refers. In the last stanza of Part I, we find aThose which is clearly opposite to We as it says: Those who have crossed with direct eyes,to death’s other kingdom remember us not as lost, violent souls, but only as the hollowmen, the stuffed men. This means that We are not remebered as lost, violent souls (MistahKurtz or Guy Fawkes) but just as hollow men, in relation to Those (who have crossed withdirect eyes), implying as well that the hollow men do not possess those `direct eyes´. Evenso, we cannot distinguish the complete meaning of We. In part II, the first person appears (I, line 19; me, lines 29 and 31), a person who isone of the hollow men but, in this case, he/she is giving a personal, subjective vision fromhis/her position. That position is significantly distant from death’s dream kingdom, as it isindicated by a There, and then the speaker pleads for being no nearer (line 29). Part III shows a different situation. Now the speaker is in death’s other kingdom,because now it is referred to as This (is the dead land) and Here (the stone images areraised), opening in line 45 a rhetorical utterance that indicates the proximity to the place (Isit like this in death’s other kingdom, ...). We could say that the speaker is not alone (at thehour when we are trembling ..., lines 48 and 49; leaning together, line 3; in this last ofmeeting places (...) gathered on this beach, ..., lines 56-60), however, everything looks as ifthe hollow men were alienated from one another; they do not interact. Part IV again mentions the place where the hollow men are (the eyes are not here;in this valley of dying stars, in this hollow valley, this broken jaw of our lost kingdoms, in 11
  12. 12. this last of meeting places), and then a last We (grope together, line 58) which clearlyrefers back to part I. In part V, the we in the children’s rhyme connects back to We in parts I and IV, asthe hollow men lean, gather and dance altogether in a kind of ritual meeting.SYMBOLS AND IMAGES The description of the symbols in The Hollow Men will be developed in depth inthe interpretation. Nevertheless, we will sketch them out in order to perceive a generaloverview. On the one hand, the image of the hollow men, stuffed men leaning together,headpiece filled with straw reminds us of that of standing -not walking- corpses, immobiledying bodies (let’s look at lines 11-12). This, of course, possesses a tight relationship withthe image of the scarecrow (let me also wear such deliberate disguises, rat’s coat,crowskin, crossed staves in a field, lines 31-34), as it is an immobile, inanimateanthropomorphic figure fulfilled with straw. On the other hand, the voices and the eyes seem to be appalingly disembodied.They appear as independent, supernatural concepts apart from the hollow men’s existence.In many literary interpretations the voices symbolise the act of speech and the expressionof the thoughts, whereas the eyes have been considered as the external reflection of thesoul. Taking into account these points of view, and that the hollow men’s voices are quietand meaningless and they are soul-lacking (the eyes are not here), this interpretion has notbeen chosen lightly at all, but this will be deeply explained later on. In the poem, we ignorewho the eyes belong to. At first, they’re a source of fear (Eyes I dare not meet in dreams,line 19); later, they might be a source of hope (sightless, unless the eyes reappear as theperpetual star (...) the hope only of empty men, lines 61-67). This conception of the eyeshas to do with that of the star, first appearing as a fading star –a star which is fading eitherdoes not exist or is very distant because the only reminiscence we perceive from it is itslight-, then becoming dying- and later perpetual –alive, eternal. Its connection with life andits religious interpretation in relation to after-death transcendence is clear. The references to the realm where The Hollow Men takes place are trulysymbolical. It is described as death’s other kingdom or death’s dream kingdom, meaningthat there is `another´ world of death apart from the beyond itself, or that it is possible to`dream´ even when you’re dead. In both cases, it is a `Wasteland´, a place where nothingcan escape from despair and sorrow (dead land, cactus land), proving there’s another kind 12
  13. 13. of death which isn’t caused by the mere death of the physical body. It is also mentioned asthe twilight kingdom, valley of dying stars, hollow valley –like the men themselves-.There, the eyes do not appear and the voices are meaningless, making the subject fear thatrealm (Let me be no nearer (...) not that final meeting, ...). We might say that it’s even agrotesque place (this broken jaw of our lost kingdoms). However, in Part V kingdom iswritten with a capital K and is related to the Lord (For Thine is the Kingdom), so now itrefers to Heaven, and not to death’s other kingdom –whose kings are not the devil or theevil itself, but Nothingness and Despair. The beach of the tumid river (line 60) maysymbolise, according to Greek mythology, the river that the souls must cross in order toreach the beyond. The Shadow –with a capital S- clearly connotes darkness, nightime anddeath. At five o’clock in the morning, the only clear reference to time in The Hollow Menhas a powerful symbolism. This time of midnight has always been considered as the hourof resurrection but, what has it got to do with the dance around the prickly pear? It isobvious: this is not a rite of resurrection, but of abortion and interruption of life.Concerning the prickly pear it must be said that due to its use instead of the mulberry bush,its symbolism is increased. A prickly pear (a cactus) is something sour, thorny and sinister,and reckoning on the fact that it’s also a phallic symbol, it provokes revulsion and disgust,reinforcing, once again, the idea of infertility.RHYME AND RHYTHM This is not a particulary `rhyming´ poem, but rhyme also plays an important role. InPart I, like all of other parts –except the fifth- the final line of the stanza rhymes with oneof the previous lines. For example, the scheme in the first stanza is AABCABDCCB.Although the last line could have ended with the two C’s, it reverted back to a familiarrhyme ending. This tactic gives the feeling of familiarity and completion at the end of eachstanza. Partial rhymes like alas; (...)less; grass; glass with rasping, coarse sounds give thereader a sensation of the plight of the hollow men. If we bear in mind that the mentionedvoices are faint, like whispers, this feeling deepens. This happens as well with the sound /∫/in shape and shade. Most of the other rhymes are performed with consonantic, closingsounds which add an extra emotion of poetic `claustrophobia´: crossed/lost (lines 13-15),column/solemn (lines 23-27), staves/behaves (lines 33-35), tenderness/kiss (lines 49-50),alone/stone (lines 41-47), existence/essence (lines 87-88). 13
  14. 14. As regards rhythm, it must be said that the tone is that of exhaustion, yetparadoxically the words do not falter and die as we are given the impression they might;rather, the atmosphere is broken by changes in style. The punctuation in the poem makesthe reader `stop´ at certain verses because a comma appears at the middle of some of them(i.e. lines 13-14) slicing a whole utterance. In other cases, we may lose our breath gettingtangled up with long, non-punctuated sentences (lines 7-10; lines 24-28). As it has beenmentioned before in this paper, the rhythm of the poem doesn’t have a definite pattern andtravels in fits and starts, imitating the hollow men in their dazed wobbling and theswinging of the tree in line 24. In Part V, the rhythm dramatically changes. The nursery rhyme in lines 68-71 issomehow musical and catching, breaking with the previous sections. The structuredstanzas (between the idea and the reality, etc) together with the verses from the Lord’sprayer shape a liturgical tone similar to that of the (Christian) masses, in which the priestrecites repetitive prayers and when he finishes the audience answers with a `summarised´one (For Thine is the Kingdom). The last stanza is repetitive, saddening and hopeless,following the general impression of the poem.3.2. INTERPRETATION AND DISCUSSION.Part I We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men. The first verses of the poemindicate a contradiction that surprises us. Hollow means “having a cavity within”, implyingthe idea of `emptiness´. It also has a figurative meaning, that of “lacking real value orsignificance”. Stuffed, however, means “filled by packing things in (to the point ofoverflowing)”. So now we appreciate the difference between the ideas of lack andabundance. But what do the hollow/stuffed men lack and what do they have in greatquantities? If we look at line 4 (Headpiece filled with straw) we’ll notice the authorhighlights this part of the body as the one `stuffed´, and considering the headpiece as therepresentation of the mind, we’ll assume that these two verses have a symbolic, figurativemeaning: the hollow men –who the speaker belongs to (We are)- are fulfilled with absurd,non-sense ideas and thoughts, causing them to be –in a contradiction in terms- empty andfutile (let’s look back at the second meaning of hollow). Leaning together (line 3) works in the text as an adjective because of the absence ofthe verb `to be´. `To lean´ means “to incline or bend from a vertical position”. This 14
  15. 15. indicates submission or even surrender (Alas!, line 4, expressing unhappiness and pity),and it might also mean that the hollow men are praying in their knees. This idea issupported by the followng description of their voices: Our dried voices, when we whispertogether are quiet and meaningless. Their voices are not dry but dried, connoting thatthey’ve been dried by something or someone, but what or who? That’s something we stillignore. When the hollow men in their leaning –praying- whisper together, in group, theirvoices have no sense, they don’t even exist –another contradiction, can a voice be quiet?-,they’re hollow, like the men themselves. In lines 8-10 the voices are compared with windin dry grass or rat’s feet over broken glass in our dry cellar. In both cases, we could arguethat wind `doesn’t affect´ dry grass –if it were humid, the wind would dry it anyway- andrat’s feet `aren`t affected´ by broken glass, because of their size. What’s more, a cellar –abasement- is supposed to possess humidity, but it is dry, like the grass and the voices. Thiscomparison greatly accentuates the `meaninglessness´ of the voices, which is, bygeneralisation, applicable to the men as well. The next stanza is configured by two verses. The first one is Shape without form,shade without color. What may it mean? At first glance, we could say that, for instance,shape and form are synonyms and shape without form is another contradiction thatconfirms the previous ideas about the poem. But the truth is that they’ve got a slightdifference in meaning: a shape is the visible, external form of something, whereas a form isthe shape and structure of something as distinguished form its material or content. So,we’re dealing with an element that can be distinguished by its external configuration butnot by its inside. Shade without color has a similar meaning. A shade is a partial darknesscaused when something covers the light, but it’s without color, that is, it doesn’t cause anyvisual sensation, it cannot be perceived. The whole verse gives us the idea of vanity andfutility, as things can only be perceived indirectly through their external appearance. Thesecond verse in this stanza is Paralyzed force, gesture without motion. Now we’re not infront of a fact of perception, but of movement. It’s supposed that a force is a mobile energyor power, but here it’s paralyzed, and a gesture, which can be static or not, is obvouslymotionless. This verses emphasises the concept of paralysis and stasis: everything ishollow and the situation won’t change. Furthermore, if we take into account both versestogether, we obtain the image of a `dead corpse´: it’s just something material, static,completely soul-lacking and absent of life. The last stanza makes reference to people apart from the hollow men (Those whohave crossed with direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom remember us). In this sentence, the 15
  16. 16. use of the present perfect instead of the present simple used so far gives us the idea of apast action recent in time, or even a remote action with a present consequence. It’s said thatthey’ve crossed –indicating movement- with direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom. Directeyes do not hesitate, move or close, they’re always staring at the same point withoutblinking. Death’s other kingdom implies the existence of another reality belonging todeath. So those either knew where they were going or they have simply not crossed to thebeyond itself on their own, it seems that they’ve had some kind of guidance to one of its`parallel worlds´; they’ve been led. Those have a strong connection with us (the hollowmen), as they remember them, they knew who they were, but if at all (line 16) -withoutnecessity or just as a simple anecdote- the hollow, stuffed men are remebered by those assuch, and not as lost, violent souls. The hollow men might be lost and violent, like MisterKurtz or Guy Fawkes, but they’re remembered as non-lost, pacific, hollow, stuffedcreatures. Part I brings the title and theme into a critical relationship. We’re like the `Old Guy´, effigies filled with straw. The first stanza –as well as Part V- indicates a church serviceand the ritual service throughout. The erstwhile worshippers disappear in a blur of shape,shade and gesture to which normality is attached. Then the crucial orientation is developed,towards death’s other kingdom. We know that we’re in a kingdom of death, not as violentsouls but as empty effigies of this religious service.Part II The first stanza quickly mentions one of the most important symbols in the poem:the Eyes. In line 19, they function as a direct object and appear at the beginning of theverse. This symbol remains completely disembodied, it’s an element of its own and doesn’tbelong to any being. However, through repetition and poetic diction we could say that thespeaker (I) is referring to the direct eyes in line 14. What we appreciate is that the eyes area source of fear, accentuated by the fact that the `hollow man´ who is speaking dares notmeet them in dreams, so that they produce in him a sensation of horror. And why are theeyes so terrible? Maybe because they have witnessed the secret path –the path to death’sother kingdom, a track full of horror and despair. Fortunately, the eyes –those eyes-(mentioned with the deictic These) are not in death’s dream kingdom. Now other has beensubstituted by dream, meaning that the kingdom where the action takes place is not entirelyreal, but surreal, and it can only be perceived or imagined through a different stage ofconciousness. What we can guess is that that kingdom is distant to the speaker, since it’s 16
  17. 17. mentioned with the deictic There. Thanks to the metaphor in verses 22-23 (There, the eyesare sunlight on a broken column) we find out that the eyes do indeed appear, but in anindirect way, just as a reflection of themselves. What’s more, the sunlight –a symbol ofgreatness- and the broken column –a symbol of ancient glory- seem to have a connectionwith the description of the voices’ meaninglessness in Part I. The sunlight doesn’t producean effect on the broken column, it just bounces off it, it’s a paralyzed force. The adjectivebroken even emphasises the distortion of the reflected light. In line 24 there is another element of death’s dream kingdom (There, is a treeswinging). What catches our attention is that a tree doesn’t swing, it could sway at themost. But why swinging? The verb means to “move freely to and fro when hanging from asupport”. Now it makes sense if we link it to the new metaphor about the voices (lines25-28): And voices are in the wind’s singing more distant and more solemn than a fadingstar. The wind’s singing -its movements- is like the tree’s swinging, they don’t have aparticular direction, they’re meaningless. Furthermore, if the voices are whispers and aredistant within the wind’s singing, they become unfortunately inaudible. And not only that,they’re more distant and more solemn than a fading star. Something solemn is serious andhas an established form or ceremony, whereas a fading star is a decaying, dying element,because the light it produces is weak and stars are so far away that their light is the onlything we can perceive from them. Therefore, in death’s dream kingdom the voices –like thetree- are even more meaningless and quieter than they were before, and what’s worse,they’re barely inaudible, meaning that the hollow men’s prayers are unuseful -evenunnecessary- in that place. The next stanza shows us a desire (Let me be no nearer) of the speaker, who is notaddressing to anyone in particular, but expressing the deepest will of his soul –he knowsthat death’s dream kingdom is approaching, and doesn’t want to come any closer (nonearer), because he’s afraid of meeting the eyes (not that final meeting in the twilightkingdom, line 37). Here is another description of the place, now it is twilight itself, becausethat word is not an adjective as it appears in the verse, but a noun. The relationshipbetween twilight and fading star is obvious: they represent a gradual reduction of light. Notonly is the kingdom surreal, but decadent and darkening as well. Verses 31-32 describe another desire (Let me also wear such deliberate disguises).Also indicates either that the speaker is wearing other clothes apart from the ones below(line 33) or that pleads for wearing them in addition to being no nearer (line 29). Deliberateproves that those clothes have been chosen in an intentional, wilful way, being aware of 17
  18. 18. their nature, as if the `hollow man´ were preparing his clothes for a special journey, as if heknew that the Darkness is near. However, they are disguises, making us understand that hewants to go unnoticed so that the eyes don’t recognise him. And which are those clothes?Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves. What we obtain is the image of a `scarecrow´ that,together with the animal furs it’s dressed up with –a rat and a crow, symbolising the plagueand the death- gives off an obscure, grotesque image of itself. The Hollow Men arecompared with scarecrows –immobile, soul-lacking puppets filled with straw, human onlyin appearance. The complement In a field (line 34) adds solitude to the utterance. Besides,the speaker wants to be like the wind (behaving as the wind behaves, no nearer-, lines35-36), that is, moving to and fro, going ahead and back –swinging, like the tree- so that hecan’t get any closer to death’s dream kingdom. In this section of the poem we’ve seen a progress from flickering to darkness, fromevening sun to dusk, from false greatness to decay, from illness to death: `indirectness´ ofthe light (line 23), fading (line 28) and partial obscurity (line 38). Is death’s other/dreamkingdom approaching? We’ll try and answer that later on. We’ve also depicted anexpression of fear towards the eyes and a sensation of distance, paralysis and worthlessnessdue to the description of the voices, the tree and the scarecrow. Part II defines the hollow men in relation to the reality that the direct eyes havemet. Luckily, they are only reflected through broken lights and shadows, all is perceivedindirectly. From this point of view, the speaker could not be any nearer, any more direct, inthat twilight kingdom. Anyway, he fears the ultimate vision (line 37).Part III In Parts III and IV, the poetic persona is in death’s other kingdom and speaks fromthere, or at least he’s had some kind of revelation. From now on, it won’t be Thereanymore, but Here (lines 41 and 42). At the beginning of the stanza there’s a description ofthe place from a perspective of proximity: This is the dead land, this is the cactus land. Inthis pair of verses, as in the first couple in Part I, the speaker offers a specification of theelement described –he doesn’t say a dead land or a cactus land, but uses the to refer tothem, so we’re not dealing with whatever arid land, but with the dead and cactus land parexcellence. The author uses cactus as an adjective, making the land desert-like, desolateand dry –like the voices and the grass in Part I. It is, of course, lacking in life, like the everstanding stone images (line 41). These images, that we could consider as statuesrepresenting the divine reality on earth, are raised –we ignore who’s raised them, as we 18
  19. 19. ignore who dried the hollow men’s voices (line 5)- and are somehow personified as livingaltars for dead people (here they receive the supplication of a dead man’s hand, lines42-43). The whole sentence has a powerful meaning, symbolising the absence of hope andthe worthlessness of the supplication due to the nature of the pleading corpse that, here,represents a lost, violent soul. Moreover, the dead man’s hand, which is the real imploringelement, is disembodied like the eyes and the voices, they all seem to act completely ontheir own. The hopeless description above is framed by the last verse (Under the twinkle of afading star), which inescapably underlies the nursery rhyme “twinkle twinkle little star”.This childlike connotation will be better explained in Part V. The fading star appears again, but now not as one of the terms in a comparison, butas a visible element in the landscape. Twinkle means “a flickering light” and is related totwilight, but it can also be applied to a person’s eyes. Under the twinkle puts us in asituation of inferiority, as if we were being `spied´ by some supernatural force –maybe thestar, maybe the eyes, maybe God. The next stanza opens with a `rhetorical utterance´ as if the speaker werecontemplating the landscape and could not assimilate so much desolation (Is it like this indeath’s other kingdom). Verses 47-49 tell us again that the hollow men gather altogetherbut they’re detached from one another (alone), however, a striking feature suddenlyappears: when we are trembling with tenderness. The hollow men are frightened and feelcold (trembling). Even so, this action is performed with tenderness, introducing a newelement of fondness and affection that did not exist so far. This is the first appearance ofthe hollow men’s emotions, as if the desolation of the landscape had aroused certainsensibility inside them. This feeling is better explained in the next verses (Lips that wouldkiss form prayers to broken stone). The Lips are disembodied, following the pattern of thepoem, and it’s said that they’d even kiss –love- inanimate, earthly items like prayers orstones. These verses represent a moan, a need of giving love, a desire which cannot beacomplished because of the physical and spiritual devastation of the place. It is, in fact,another paralyzed force. Part III defines the representation of death’s kingdom in relationship to the worshipof the hollow men. A dead, arid land, like its people, raises earthly images of the divine,which are implored by the dead. The image of frustrated love is a moment of anguishedillumination suspended in death’s other kingdom. Furthermore, the broken stone unites the 19
  20. 20. stone images and the broken column, which bent the sunlight and, by generalisation,reality.Part IV In this section, the absence of the eyes is repeated and highlighted by the first twoverses (The eyes are not here, there are no eyes here). The hollow men are still in death’sother kingdom (here) and not only do they assume that the direct eyes do not appear (Theeyes are not), but they’ve also found out that any kind of eyes exist in this place (There areno eyes), not even theirs, or anyone else’s. In this moment, they’re blind and cannotperceive the surrounding su-reality (Sightless, line 61). Verses 54-56 add more dramatism to the place, this time depicting it as a valley ofdying stars. This valley –which implies the existence of mountains or a river (tumid river,line 60)- possesses dying stars. The fading star has now become dying, indicating theprogression towards darkness, disappearance and death. The valley, how not, is hollow likethe men, and it is also described as the broken jaw of our lost kingdoms. From a literalvision of the verse, we could say that broken jaw is related to the men’s inability to speak,but it has a figurative sense: it is like the black sheep of the universe, the most scornfulplace anybody has ever set a foot on. Our lost kingdoms emphasises its remoteness, as if itwere a land that cannot be easily discovered and explored. The end is nigh, and this kingdom will become this last of meeting places (line 57),meaning that the hollow men have met in different places, but this one, without any doubt,will be where they will eventually have to say goodbye to each other. The next verseexplains the hollow men’s blindness and silence (We grope together and avoid speech).Grope means “to search blindly with the hands”, but it also has a sexual connotation: “tofondle for sexual pleasure”. The first definition is clear within the meaning of the text, butthe second one is harder to explain. Maybe they’ve realised they won’t be togetheranymore and decide not to talk and let their instincts flourish, but perhaps this is going toofar. The eroticism of the image is also manifest with the appearance of the beach of thetumid river (line 60). On one hand, the river’s volume has increased and it might overflowat any moment, like in an explosion of sexual impulse. On the other hand, the river, inrelation to verses 13-14, might symbolise the one that wandering souls must cross to reachthe beyond, accompanied by Acheron, the boatman in classical mythology. In any case, thehollow men are doomed. 20
  21. 21. Later on, a terrifying element transforms into the only source of their salvation(Sightless, unless the eyes reappear as the perpetual star, multifoliate rose of death’stwilight kingdom). It doesn’t say, for instance, reappear as the `fading/dying star´ or`sunlight on a broken column´, but as the perpetual star, multifoliate rose. We may also saythat the eyes could be Acheron’s, meaning that depending on their appearance, they will bea guide either to paradise or to hell. Anyway, here we understand perpetual as `eternal,ever shining´ and the multifoliate rose as life, freshness and youth. So the hollow men wishthe eyes to return as something alive and creative, not frightening or deceasing, but wealready know that this desire will not bear fruit. The last verses of this section (The hope only of empty men) make us wonder: arethe eyes their only hope, or is the salvation they bring only applicable to the hollow men?The truth is that the sentence is rather ambiguous. Both could be thought as correct. Andnot only that, the men become empty, gaining a much more literal significance –they’velost the straw fulfilling them, now their hollowness is complete. Part IV explores the loving impulse in Part III in relation to the land, which nowdarkens progressively as the valley of the shadow of death. Now there are not even hints ofthe eyes, not even the hollow men’s, and they are without any vision, unless the eyes comeback as a source of life. But for them, this is only a futile hope.Part V As it had been said before in this paper, the last section of The Hollow Men openswith a nursery rhyme substituting the `mulberry bush´ by the `prickly pear´. This elementalludes to the cactus (land), summarising all the features of death’s other/dream/twilightkingdom: dryness, aridity, solitude, repulsion and immobility. The hollow men go ‘round itat five o’clock in the morning. This circular movement depictes an image of childrendancing hand-in-hand and singing like in a traditional, ritual game. The time when thishappens, when nightime and darkness dissipate and the sun begins to shine, also has anoutstanding significance. That is the time of resurrection, of returning to life, of hope forthe empty men. However, all the elements explained seem to mock the hollow men’ssituation, as if the children’s song did not have to welcome the sunlight, but to scare itaway and bring obscurity again. This ritual of `interruption of life´ is developed within theremaining verses of Part V. The Shadow (darkness, fear, nothingness) falls in the very middle of pairs of(abstract) concepts (each one of them with a defining the) which represent `prospect´ and 21
  22. 22. `fulfillment´, interrupting creation at all levels. In the second stanza, it breaks the `bridge´between the conceptual world and the referential world (idea/reality) and stops a change ofposture (motion/act). In verses 78-81 it interrupts fertilisation and physiological processes(conception/creation); (emotion/response). In lines 84-89 disconnects voluntary and reflexactions (desire/spasm), what “is” and what “could actually be” (potency/existence) andfinally destroys the link between the past and the present, the Beginning and the End, the`alpha´ and the `omega´ (essence/descent). The Shadow becomes the God of anti-creation,it stops time and aims for an eternity of hollow abstraction and nothingness. Now it hasbeen demostrated the objective of the hollow men’s ritual: if they cannot avoid their tragicdestiny, nothing in death’s other kingdom will do. In addition to that, the sentences from the Lord’s prayer now get a new meaning:are the prayers addressing to God? Or to the Shadow? If we compare the prayer `ThyKingdom come´ to verse 29 (Let me be no nearer), then Part V and the whole poem shapesome sort of `Anti-Lord’s prayer´, because its goal is just the other way round. Line 83(Life is very long) is a complaint that justifies this ritual, liturgical event. Perhaps the mostappropriate thing to say would be `life is too long´ and it should be cut off right now. Thetruncated utterances (92-94) are probably the elements which best exemplify the advent ofthe Shadow, meaning that the act of speech has already been interrupted. The last stanza, describing the incoming Apocalypse, is completed by an ironicexcuse with a negation at the beginning (Not with a bang but a whimper). The destiny ofhumankind is not to disappear in a grand, spectacular way, but in a pathetic, humiliatingmanner full of sorrow. But the most devastating irony is formal: the extension of game ritual in liturgicalform.4. CONCLUSION. The Hollow Men portrays a poetic conciousness in which intense nostalgia for astate of heavenly purity conflicts with the paradoxical search for a long-lasting form oforder through acts of denial and alienation. To the common observation that The HollowMen expresses the depths of Eliot’s despair, one must add that the poet in a sense `chooses´ despair as the only acceptable alternative to the inauthentic existence of the unthinkinginhabitants of the waste land. 22
  23. 23. The Hollow Men is an episodic free verse poem. Eliot constructs a desolate world,death’s dream kingdom, to explore humankind’s evasion from spiritual intention. Thefocus of the poem is on the hollow men’s inability to interact with each other and with thetrascendental spirituality that is their only hope. The form and range of techniquesemployed by the poet foreground this predicament and highlight its broad aplicability. Thetitle of the poem draws our attention to the importance of the collective personae. Thehollow men represent all humankind, and their tragic existence –the poem suggests-concerns us all. The poem’s despair and disillusionment are no illustration of weakness; they areperfectly objective, because they are essential moments in the progress of the soul, as inthe progress of traditional Christian mystic. Principles of intellectual order control thedespair of The Hollow Men as well, in the way the text conciously evaluates experience inabstract terms, distinguishes between antithetical states of being and establishes, both inform and subject matter, the archetype of the Negative Way as an alternative to disorder aswell as to the illusory order of visionary experience. The formal strategy of The Hollow Men, like its thematic content, seems designedto demonstrate how effectively the Shadow of the inarticulate falls between the conceptionand the creation of an artistic work. Formal aspects of the poem imitate the characteristicsof the hollow men it portrays. For example, their desire to avoid speech finds a counterpartin the poem’s paucity of utterance: the technique of constant repetition and negationmanages to employ only about 180 different words in a work 420 words long. TheParalyzed force, gesture without motion applies not only to the men themselves but also tothe poem as a whole, which exhibits little narrative progression in the conventional senseand avoids verbs of direct action. As the hollow men grope together and whisper meaninglessly, so the poem itselfgropes toward a conclusion only to end in hollow abstraction, broken prayer and themeaningless circularity of a children’s rhyme. The conscious reduction of poeticexpression to a bare minimum does away with metaphor and simile and produces a finalsection of the poem almost completely devoid of modifiers. The poem avoids capitulationto the silence of the inarticulate by relying on a highly structured syntax that tends to orderexperience in terms of binary opposition: Shape without form, shade without color orBetween the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act. The quality of a poeticstyle marked by verbal austerity and relentless negation forms a structural counterpart to athematic strategy that repudiates the validity of human experience at every level. In 23
  24. 24. modern existential terms as well as those of traditional Christianity, the Negative Wayleads ultimately to an encounter with the nothingness which, paradoxically, can inspire theindividual with faith in God. The central images of the poem are death’s kingdoms and the eyes. The firstmention of the eyes serves to foreground the lack of direction of the hollow men. Thosewho have crossed... to death’s other kingdom do so with direct eyes –the very guidancewhich the hollow men refuse to acknowledge. In their land, The eyes are not here, yet theirhope rests on the prospect of these shy eyes reappearing as the perpetual star, multifoliaterose. The star is another recurrent symbol which draws attention to the plight of the hollowmen. Their landscape is one of fading stars which twinkle barely enough to illuminate theimage of a dead man’s hand. We are given the impression that soon their landscape willsilently descend into darkness. The images of this landscape construct the hollow men asbeing resigned to a state of suspension, paralysed by their own inability to turn conceptioninto creation, emotion into response; spiritual redemption into their only hope. The poemprivileges these supernatural symbols –eyes, stars, death’s kingdoms- over the natural. Thehollow men are sightless, colourless, immobile and barely able to speak, while at the sametime divine images linger in the landscape. The effect is to highlight a man as a finitecreature distinct from the trascendental. The deliberate disguises that man makes forhimself fail to hide the ultimate truth about our tragic existence. The Hollow Men explores this boundary situation in its images of finality orextremity and in a thematic structure comprising two different states of being. The poem’sspeaker anticipates with dread that final meeting; the men grope together in this last ofmeeting places; the final section, in its generalised abstraction of all that has gone before,tells us that This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. Our conditionas human beings is doomed, our fate is unfortunately tragic, but the only guilties will be usif we cannot prevent ourselves from being the hollow men, the stuffed men.Bibliography: · T. S. Eliot’s Poetry and Plays: A Study in Sources and Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956. · Poets of Reality: Six Twentieth-Century Writers. Harvard University Press, 1965. · Conflicts in Conciousness: T.S. Eliot’s Poetry and Criticism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984. · The Savage and the City in the Work of T.S. Eliot. Clarendon Press, 1987. 24
  25. 25. · Williamson, George. A Reader’s Guide to T.S. Eliot: A Poem by Poem Analysis. New York: Octagon Books, 1979 25