“The Hollow Men” Poem by Thomas Stearns Eliot

Subject: Literature
Pages: 2
Words: 331
Reading time:
2 min

“The Hollow Men” is among T. S. Eliot’s major poems and has fragmentary and overlapping themes. It is a short poem published as part of “Poems 1909-1925” and it addresses the emptiness and hopelessness of modern life. Unlike in “The Waste Land”, this poem has no mythologies and it represents a constant analogy between antiquity and modernity. Also, its level regularity in its short two-stressed lines is different from the musical element of “The Waste Land”. This title of this poem has been formed by combining the titles of two other romantic poems – “The Broken Men” by Rudyard Kipling and “The Hollow Land” by William Morris, but it can also be that this is just an allusion created by Eliot. The poem has been shaped as a continuation of “The Waste Land” and even loosely follows “The Divine Comedy”. This poem is the earliest poem of Eliot’s through which he seriously tried to seek “double-ness” of action, something which Eliot, later on, called a feature of poetic drama. Eliot begins the poem by saying,

“We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men”
“Headpiece filled with straw”

Here he refers to the effigies that are burnt on Guy Fawkes Day. Eliot represents the modern man as a “hollow man” and the words “rats” and “whisper”, in the following, gives us a connotation of conspiracy.

“We whisper together”
“Or rats’ feet over broken glass”

The paradoxes of the poem lie in the next lines, as Eliot intends to show the readers disorder and uncertainty by adding a mysterious feeling to the poem.

“Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;”

The most famous lines of this poem are its concluding lines,

“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.”