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Eliot And “The Hollow Men” Essay

1901 words - 8 pages

T. S. Eliot has always incorporated or reflected the idea of disillusionment in a young generation after World War I. This means they were no longer believing the same ideals as they were before. Just after his years in college, he saw everyone broken and hopeless after the war (Shmoop “T.S. Eliot”). His first work greatly conveying this idea is The Wasteland, which contains a lot of hopelessness and depression (Shmoop “T.S. Eliot”). Eliot saw that life is brutal and difficult and believed that this must also be conveyed in poetry (Shmoop “T.S. Eliot”). After studying at Harvard, Eliot moved to England to receive his doctorate at Oxford. However, he loved the country, and married a woman with the wrong intent of keeping himself there. Unfortunately, he did not love the woman, and felt just as broken as The Wasteland (Shmoop “T.S. Eliot”). In “The Hollow Men,” Eliot uses his idea of post-war disillusionment and despair by incorporating images of hollowness, emptiness, dryness, silence, and death.
In “The Hollow Men,” Eliot starts off with a proclamation by an unknown party calling themselves the hollow and stuffed men. Eliot gives a recurring theme throughout this poem of hollow and dryness. He uses a party of no specified number to narrate the poem. When he states that they are hollow or stuffed, it shows that they are without human qualities and basically empty (Gopang, Sangi, and Soomro 473). Eliot specifically uses the pronoun “we,” leaving the reader questioning who exactly that may be. They are a representative for the people who were left to feel empty after World War I, which had just ended at the time (Gopang, Sangi, and Soomro 473). This immediately points back to Eliot’s idea of despair. He goes on to describe them “leaning together” and their heads made of straw. This leaves the question as to whether they are scare crows or mannequins. They are in theory scarecrows because they aren’t quite human (Shmoop “The Hollow Men”). They are disillusioned by their lack of self-purpose which they once possessed. Then he describes their voices as dry and whispers. These whispers are “quiet and meaningless.” This could mean they are dead, yet the reader wonders why Eliot would use whispers as a description of their voices. The whispers are meant to show that they are hiding and are meaningless (Jeon 12). Next, he says they are “as wind in dry grass and rats feet over broken glass.” The word broken is key here. The brokenness is in relation to the spiritual state of the men (Shmoop “The Hollow Men”). After, he places the events in a dry cellar. He describes a formless shape and colorless shade. The lack of color could have a deeper meaning, and the cellar may indicate that they are being hidden. They are to appear as though they are dead. Life comes from water, so dryness represents death (Shmoop “The Hollow Men”). These men no longer feel alive due to the despair in war, thus conveying Eliot’s recurring theme. In addition, Eliot describes it...

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