T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men : Cyclic Events in Human History both in Tautology and Monologue


"We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!"

T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965)

In The Hollow Men T. S. Eliot explores what appear to be cyclic events in human history both in tautology and monologue. The story of everyman parallels the modern men of sanctimonious selfish ends of materialism. We are empowered by a powerful magical incantation of spiritual bankruptcy. The importance of these cyclic events is that they represent the repeated clashes between the powers of good and evil that seems to be occurring on an escalating scale over time. Farther, The Hollow Men presents nihilism, designation applied to various radical philosophies, usually by their opponents, the implication being that adherents of these philosophies reject all positive values and believe in nothing.

The best-known poetic nihilist was The Waste Land and The Hollow Men goes very close to it. Here all possibility of orderly and purposeful existence is challenged and was directly contrary to real human needs and desires. Here manifestations of nihilism are expressed in the effigy of the hollowness of ours.

Furthermore, T. S. Eliot makes the point that salvation lies in the actions of individuals.

In the character of The Hollow Men, T. S. Eliot has brought the mythical to life in the modern barren land of waste land.

For this poem, T.S. Eliot claimed to have combined the title of a poem by Rudyard Kipling (of The Jungle Book fame), The Broken Men, with the title of story by a writer named William Morris, The Hollow Land. He claimed, "I combined the two”.
An important connection of Mistah Kurtz—he dead might be Marlow 's description of the character Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness as "hollow at the core” announcing Kurtz's death. Like that of Kurtz, we can find out the route of anarchy in modern times.
 The Hollow Men are the modern men. Their hollowness is a sign that they lack a soul and other essential qualities of being human. They are living dead with out any spiritual and aesthetic values.  They are filled with straw like one of the effigies and exist in a state that is less than fully real. Read More Poetry

"A penny for the guy," is what kids in England say on Guy Fawkes Day when begging for money to buy fireworks to burn or blow up their straw effigies of Guy Fawkes. This tradition mimics Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament back in the day. These effigies were like dolls filled with straw or another kind of stuffing.

 The clearest expression of the scarecrow-like features of  The Hollow Men is evident in the poem. They wear ragged clothes and stand in a field, supported by wooden poles or "crossed staves." Spiritual and aesthetic bankruptcy of modern men and their aimless behavior is compared using simile to the aimless motions of the wind:

“Let me also wear
      Such deliberate disguises
     Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
     In a field
      Behaving as the wind behaves
     No nearer—”

The dryness of the nature establishes that the Hollow Men live in a dry and barren world. The speakers compare their "dried voices" to the "quiet" and "meaningless" sound of "wind in dry grass." Also using simile, they compare their voices to the sound of rats walking across broken glass in a "dry cellar.":

Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar”.

Everything around the Hollow Men is broken – nothing is complete. We wouldn't want to lend anything valuable to the Hollow Men or it would probably come back broken. Images of broken objects symbolize the fragmented spiritual condition of the Hollow Men. The phrase like ‘broken glasses, ‘broken column’,’ broken stone’, ‘broken jaw’ clearly point out the broken essence of our reality.

Here is "Death's dream kingdom" which probably refers to Heaven, which the Hollow Men can only "dream" about and never experience. Or maybe they think Heaven is like a pleasant dream.


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