The poem begins with two epigraphs: is a quotation from Joseph Conrads Heart of Darkness remarking on the fatality of the doomed identity Kurtz. The other is an expression employed by English schoolchildren who want money to buy fireworks to rejoice Dude Fawkes Day. On this holiday, people melt away straw effigies of Fawkes, who tried out to inflate the Uk Parliament back the 17th century.
The poem is narrated by one of the "Hollow Men. "
In the first section of the poem, a bunch of Hollow Men are leaning alongside one another like scarecrows. Everything about them is really as dry as the Sahara Desert, including their voices and their bodies. Everything they state and do is meaningless. They can be found in a state like Hell, except these were too timid and cowardly to commit the violent acts that would have gained them usage of Hell. They have not crossed on the River Styx to make it to either Heaven or Hell. The individuals who have crossed over keep in mind this business as "hollow men. "
In the next section, one hollow man is frightened to check out people who managed to get to "death's goal kingdom" - either Heaven or Hell. The Hollow Men are in a world of broken icons and images.
The third section of the poem represents the preparing as barren and filled with cacti and stones. If the Hollow Men feel a need to kiss someone, they cannot. Instead, they state prayers to damaged stones.
In the fourth section, the hollow man from Section 2 goes on to describe his vacant, desolate area, in which are no "eyes. " The Hollow Men are afraid to check out people or to be looked at.
The fifth and final section starts with a nursery rhyme modeled on the track "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush, " except rather than a mulberry bush the kiddies are circling a prickly pear cactus. The speaker describes how a "shadow" has paralyzed all of their activities, so they are unable to act, create, respond, or even are present. He will try quoting expressions that get started "Life is lengthy" and "For Thine is the Kingdom, " but these, too, break off into fragments. In the ultimate lines, the "Mulberry Bush" song turns into a music about the end of the world. You might expect the world to end with an enormous, bright explosion, but for the Hollow Men, the globe ends with a sad and tranquil "whimper. "
Mistah Kurtz-he deceased.
The first epigraph is a price from a servant in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
The servant discloses to the smoothness Marlow that another personality named Kurtz has just perished.
Conrad's novel is a genuine common, but we don't believe you need to hurry out to read it to understand this poem.
Here's the lowdown: Kurtz can be an British ivory investor in Africa, which is one of the many Europeans who came to exploit that continent's resources in the 19th and early 20th decades. He appears to have some attributes of greatness because he collects more ivory than other merchants, however in one memorable passage, Marlow suspects Kurtz of being "hollow to the main" and missing a human and moral aspect. (Learning much more. ) The epigraph explains to us that, in some sense, the poem is set after the loss of life of Kurtz, or someone "hollow" man like him.
A penny for the Old Guy
The English celebrate Person Fawkes Day every November 5th with fireworks and the burning up of little straw men or "effigies. "
Guy Fawkes was convicted of seeking to blow up Ruler Adam I in 1605 by stashing gunpowder underneath the Parliament building. The event is recognized as the "Gunpowder Story. " But Fawkes and the gunpowder were learned before the plan proceeded to go off, and Fawkes quit the labels of his co-conspirators under torture.
To celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, English children require money to invest in the explosions of the straw effigies of Fawkes, so they say, "A penny for the guy?" "Guy" being his first name. You can read more about it here.
But there's more. Matching to ANCIENT GREEK LANGUAGE mythology, someone who died would have to pay Charon, the ferryman, with a gold coin before he would take you over the River Styx in to the realm of death. So the "Old Person" also identifies the ancient physique of Charon. Apparently, someone is begging for a "penny" to provide the ferryman to get across the Styx.
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled up with straw. Alas!
Hold hands everyone, we're going to sing a song: "We are the hol-low men! We will be the stuffed men!"
Well, maybe these lines don't are a Broadway showstopper, but it is stunning that the Hollow Men are performing in chorus, as an organization.
At this point, we have no idea where they are.
They are both "hollow" and "stuffed. " Aren't these characteristics the opposite of one another?
Not if hollow means something similar to "lacking a heart and soul, " or in the Scarecrow's famous words from Wizard of Oz: "If I only possessed a brain!"
The Hollow Men lack something essential.
They are also "stuffed" with straw, as an effigy of Dude Fawkes (see "Second Epigraph") or like a scarecrow.
They are leaning collectively to support each other, as if they are frightened or cannot support themselves.
We think of a pack of sticks being stacked alongside one another to form a lean-to.
They are not happy about their "hollow" condition, either, nevertheless they can only share their unhappiness in the one-word exclamation, "Alas!"
This is a cheesy thing to state, and Eliot is aware it. We shouldn't expect people whose mind are filled up with straw expressing themselves profoundly.
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are peaceful and meaningless
As breeze in dried up grass
Or rats' foot over busted glass
In our dried cellar
The Hollow Men converse without stating anything significant.
They speak in a very soft "whisper, " as if they are frightened that someone will notice them.
In a particularly haunting image, their voices are set alongside the wind running right through dry grass, which sounds like a private rattling or scraping.
Or, as another example, the voices sound like the feet of rats pitter-pattering over bits of broken wine glass "In our dried cellar. "
If both these images make you shiver, you're on the right course. (If you've seen the Lord of the Jewelry series, will this remind you of Gollum by any means?)
At least we've learned about the actual Hollow Men were like on the planet. That they had a "cellar" like many average people.
The first stanza uses "dry" or "dried' 3 x. Eliot desires you to know: the Hollow Men are dry out, nor have bloodstream in the veins. They don't have even veins.
To make another assessment with the movies, remember the way the renegade pirates within the Pirates of the Caribbean were cursed with being struggling to drink or eat anything, therefore their skin received dry plus they began to fall apart? The Hollow Men have a similar curse. They can be filled with straw, which is a kind of "dry lawn. "
Shape without form, shade without shade,
Paralysed pressure, gesture without motion;
The speaker takes away himself from the narration to provide four examples of other things which may have "missing requirements. "
Just like the Hollow Men, these things only half-exist, because they are missing something else that will make them real.
The first example is "shape without form. "
A shape becomes an application when it has chemical. Often it's just a clear idea, like the difference between the ball you visualize in your head (a shape) and a ball of dough (a form).
In the same type of thought, you can't have a "shade" without "color, " because "shade" is a degree of color. But somehow, the Hollow Men have one with no other. (Also, Eliot is making a pun on the term "shade, " which often means "ghost").
"Force" is the energy to act or move, but "Paralysed drive" is a drive that can't move or respond.
All of these good examples are contradictory: they would make no sense in real life.
The last example is "gesture without motion. " Is it possible to make a gesture without moving?
Here's a fitness: try making the common gesture for "STOP!" without moving a muscle. Can you do it? Not if you don't lived in some unusual netherworld, which appears to be what we're coping with in this poem.
Those who've crossed
With direct eye, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
You could read these lines in two ways: 1) the Hollow Men are asking individuals who have crossed into "death's other Kingdom" to keep in mind them as stuffed and bare men rather than as violent and awful people; or 2) the Hollow Men are saying as a fact that this is how they have been appreciated.
The difference is between "They remember me like this. . . " and "Remember me such as this!"
The phrase "crossed" might remind us of the "Second Epigraph, " and the Greek myth where deceased souls must pay Charon to mix the River Styx to enter into the realm of the deceased.
For some reason, the Hollow Men never made it to the land of the dead. They are jammed in no-man's land.
From a Religious perspective, "death's other Kingdom" sounds like Heaven, where souls look with "direct eye" at God.
The Hollow Men do not have "direct eye. " Do they even have eyes at all?
Beware: we're going to toss more allusions at you.
In particular, this complete poem seems to be inspired by the Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, the fantastic Italian poet. Eliot was obsessed with Dante. Really obsessed. He borrowed much from Dante that he must have to pay royalties.
We think the idea for "The Hollow Men" originates from Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno. For the reason that canto, Dante finds the gates of Hell and sees a group of men and women wandering around aimlessly and miserably, with lots of tears and wailing. As Dante's guide Virgil says, "They have no hope of death, and their blind life is so abject they are envious of each other lot. The entire world does not enable report of them. Mercy and justice maintain them in contempt. Let us not talk about them - look and pass by. "
To recap: the souls in Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno can't even expire, they may be "blind, " and the globe will not "report of" or bear in mind them.
This sounds kind of like our Hollow Men, does it not?
As Virgil clarifies in other places in the canto, these souls didn't take sides in the general turmoil between good and evil. They thought they lived their lives aside from difficult moral questions. In a way, both Dante and Eliot presumed that such people will be the worst of all, because they are too timid or indifferent even to do bad things.
As for "direct eye, " in the other two parts of the Divine Funny, Purgatorio and Paradiso, Dante constantly describes the sight of his great love, the heavenly Beatrice. She has the sort of eyes that can easily see right through a person's flaws and faults. Dante can't cover anything from her powerful eye-sight. Like a heavenly soul, she actually is also able to look "directly" at God.
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's goal kingdom
There, the sight are
Sunlight on the broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and much more solemn
Than a fading celebrity.
We're needs to get it: the Hollow Men do not need to look anyone in the eyes. They are simply timid and frightened.
They be anxious that the eyes of souls from Heaven ("death's aspiration kingdom") will enter into their dreams and try to make eyes contact.
The speaker talks about a place out "there" where the eyes sparkle like "sunlight on the busted column" and faraway voices are transported by the breeze, which also makes a tree sway.
"There" could be either in their dreams or in "death's aspiration kingdom. "
(The poem's imagery is hazy and inconclusive, so don't worry if you can't piece together every very last thing. )
We think of the sight as revealing real truth, and the Hollow Men are frightened to have the truth of the condition discovered.
They are too ashamed to confront the truth of what they have grown to be. They are in a fragmented world of "broken" and "fading" items.
Let me be no nearer
In death's aspiration kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's overcoat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the breeze behaves
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom
Too bad you can't convey a pirate words in writing, in any other case we'd paraphrase their attitude as, "Stay back, ye heavenly vermin!"
The Hollow Men do not want to go everywhere near "death's wish kingdom, " for concern with those truth-revealing eyes.
The big hint is "crossed staves, " this means two wooden poles. They describe their appearance as an attempt never to get recognized by those probing eyes.
Just like scarecrows that "work as the wind behaves" - twisting and turning without way.
The mediocre souls in Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno also run around with no purpose, another sign that Eliot was influenced by that wording.
At the finish of the section, the souls vow never to have a "final meeting" at "twilight. " This appointment could refer to the Last Judgment in Christian theology and "twilight" could make reference to the end of the world.
The Hollow Men fear so much the wisdom they'll obtain when their identity is finally examined by the "eyes. " They are able to only delay justice, not escape it.
(In the event that you wanted to, you could also compare images of light and darkness between this poem and Heart of Darkness. )
This is the inactive land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are increased, here they receive
The supplication of the lifeless man's hand
Under the twinkle of the fading star.
The Hollow Men reside in an area that looks like desert where nothing lives but cacti that may survive without much water.
The Hollow Men pray to "stone images, " that happen to be like false gods or idols. The "dead man" is one of the Hollow Men. They are useless in the sense that they don't have life, nevertheless they also cannot cross over in to the kingdom of death.
It's like being stuck at a rest stop on the road between two areas.
To "supplicate" is to beg or ask for something, therefore the Hollow Men are begging the rocks to help them out of these mess.
The star might represent desire or salvation, as stars are usually associated with Heaven. But their expectations are fading fast, in support of a little "twinkle" of light remains.
Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to busted stone.
All of a sudden the Hollow Men are curious about "death's other Kingdom. "
They don't really think that things are better in Heaven or somewhere else. Otherwise, they probably would have tried out to get there.
They wish to know if people in the other kingdom also wake up together, with warm and tender feelings but no store for the kids except to pray to a bunch of "broken natural stone" images.
Have not saints mouth, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they need to used in prayer.
The eyes are not here
There are no sight here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This destroyed jaw of your lost kingdoms
The Hollow Men remain concerned about those sight. The sight from heaven are not present, but the lines also suggest that the Hollow Men haven't any vision.
There is another way to interpret this range. "Eyes" sounds like "Is", such as, "The Is aren't here. " You will find no self-employed personalities or selves one of the group.
Hope continues to fade, as the superstars fade or "pass away" away.
The "valley" leads us to think about one a famous Psalm from the Bible, that moves, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of loss of life, I will fear no evil, for you are beside me; your rod as well as your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23).
They are in a valley of fatality, but there is no person there to comfort them because they never signed up with with God.
The Hollow Men each used to have their own kingdoms - basically or metaphorically - but these kingdoms have been lost or damaged like a jaw. Why a jaw?
We're not suremaybe you can tell us!
At any rate, here the only true kingdom is the Kingdom of God, plus they got their chance to become listed on it but didn't.
In this previous of conference places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered upon this beach of the tumid river
We finally learn where in fact the Hollow Men are collected: on the bankers of the swollen or "tumid" river.
They are huddled together as if these were going to be washed away. The river is almost overflowing with drinking water, in contrast to the dryness of the men and the desert around them.
This is the last place that they can meet before they face even more terrible fate.
The river probably represents Acheron, branch of the mythical River Styx in Greece that souls must mix into death.
To make the trip, you would need to pay Charon, the ferryman, a gold coin to use you on his boat.
Unfortunately, no one has arrived to consider these souls across. They are really stranded.
There's nothing remaining to say about their dire situation, so they "avoid speech. "
In Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno, Dante asks his guide Virgil why souls are so eager to get across Acheron, and Virgil responds that God's justice "spurs them on" so that they really need to reach Hell earlier.
But the Hollow Men can't even reach Hell.
The eye reappear
As the perpetual star
Of death's twilight kingdom
The trust only
Of bare men.
The Hollow Men are "sightless, " like a bunch of underground worms, if the "eyes" gain their vision could be restored.
Their only desire is if the heavenly eye come back as a legend.
This star would be "perpetual" or eternal, unlike the "fading" or "dying" personalities in the desert. Right now you've probably pointed out that Eliot is tossing around symbols like candy at a Fourth of July parade.
A "multifoliate" rose has many petals. Here again Eliot is referring to - figure who? - Dante Alighieri.
In Dante's Paradiso, the ultimate vision of paradise is of a rose made up of saints, angels, and other types of goodness and virtue. The city of Heaven is similar to a rose with petals made of people. Dante also compares Mary, the mom of Jesus, to a rose.
The point of the lines is usually that the Hollow Men cannot save themselves. They have no hope except for the Heavenly souls to come down and repair their vision of real truth and goodness.
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go across the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.
Admit it: if you had to blindly wait around on the lenders of an river until the end of energy, you might join hands and begin performing "Here we go 'round the mulberry bush, " too.
And if you didn't have a mulberry bush, well, then you'd have to sing about the "prickly pear" cactus.
"Here we go 'around the mulberry bush" is a children's tune about people dance across the bush "so early in the morning. "
Eliot actually gives the time at which they are dancing: 5 o'clock in the morning.
According to one commentary on the poem, "5:00 a. m. is the traditional time of Christ's resurrection" (source).
The resurrection is the main instant in the Christ story, but here the Hollow Men are undertaking a children's boogie around a cactus, totally unacquainted with the significance of that time period.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
If you look back again to lines 12-13, you'll keep in mind the list of "missing essentials, " or things that are lacking some essential element, like "gesture without action. "
In this last portion of the poem, Eliot reveals a similar idea.
For the Hollow Men, some strange "shadow" has fallen between some prospect of action and the action itself to prevent them for doing anything.
They have "ideas" but cannot bring them into "reality. "
They can "move" however, not coordinate their moves into "action. "
The "shadow" comes like an iron curtain to stop their intentions.
For Thine is the Kingdom
The Hollow Men commence to state part of a prayer but do not complete it. "For Thine is the Kingdom" is part of the ending to the Lord's Prayer that runs: "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, permanently and ever. Amen. "
You get the sensation that if the Hollow Men could just get to the finish of the prayer, maybe they would be preserved.
You'll observe that the word "kingdom" has been used a great deal in this poem. God has his everlasting kingdom in Heaven, and the Hollow Men possessed their "lost kingdoms. "
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Here comes that Shadow again. "Conception" is the moment of pregnancy or the beginning of idea, but "creation" is when that being makes existence.
An "emotion" is a mental state, but a reply can be an action resulting from that express.
The shadow stops a very important factor from leading obviously to the other.
If you went to the doctor and she or he tapped your leg with that little rubber hammer, and you'd no physical response, it might be a difficulty.
The stanza ends with the start of another affirmation: "Life is very long. "
You can almost here the Hollow Men sighing wearily as the saying goes that, as though they are fed up and worn down.
Compared to eternity, of course, life is pretty short.
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
The poem provides three more examples of the Shadow's grubby work. It avoids "desire" from becoming the "spasm" of intimate satisfaction - that is, climax.
It also comes between potential or "potency" and existence, and between the higher "substance" of things and the "descent" of this substance into our physical world.
In case Eliot is getting too philosophical, here is a simpler way of adding it: the Shadow helps prevent things which should naturally follow in one another from going on.
The stanza ends, again, with a fragment of the Lord's Prayer. They still can't say any more than that one area of the prayer.
For Thine is
For Thine is the
The Hollow Men duplicate the fragmented lines from the finish of the last three stanzas, but this time around chopped down even further.
They just trail off, as if they can't keep in mind how the slumber should go or have slipped into some semi-conscious status.
Cut them some slack, though: their heads are filled up with straw.
This is the way the world ends
This is what sort of world ends
This is what sort of world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
They grab again with another crazy adaptation of the "Mulberry Bush" track. The melody provides little lessons about how to do chores throughout the house, like "This is actually the way we wash our clothes" and "This is the way we sweep the ground. " (Read the full song. )
(Wow, that melody is totally simply a way to trick kids into doing work!)
In Eliot's version, the Hollow Men are performing about how the globe ends as they dance across the prickly pear.
These lines are the most famous and frequently repeated lines in the poem.
The world ends not with a "bang" like you might expect, with some huge war between angels and demons, but with a "whimper, " just like a defeated doggie.
The question is, does indeed the world end this method for everyone, or maybe for the Hollow Men? Take into account that they will be the ones singing.
The end of the world is, in a word, anticlimactic.
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