The Hollow Men

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Colin Stone
3 August 2012
1.08b: The Hollow Men
Dr. Cooper

“The Hollow Men” is a very well written poem filled with great detail and imagery. Poet T. S. Elliot wrote this work with great knowledge of the Bible and what it has to say about death and the final destination. He uses solid literary elements such as paradox, allusion, and diction to capture the reader’s attention and understanding the point he is trying to make.

One of the first things the reader will notice about the poem is its allusion to biblical works. Eliot uses the word “kingdom” throughout the poem. The “eyes” in his poem either refer to the eyes of the saints, or perhaps the eyes of God. It says how the “eyes” no longer can watch in the valley of shadows on the helpless men. Maybe God no longer wants to watch them because they have given up on Him.

Another device in the poem is Eliot's diction. He uses vernacular so that the every day, or average, man can understand but does not use slang that would lower the poem. The poem's tone is one of sadness but not pity. There is a fine line between shouting his problems and someone seeking pity. Eliot clearly does not cross that line of difference. The hollow men want to be remembered not as lost souls but as exactly what they are, men who are hollow because of their own choices.

Eliot consistently uses paradox and irony throughout the poem to help give meaning to his theme. The very words “hollow man” are somewhat a paradox. A man cannot be literally hollow, but a man can be hollow if he lacks any true convictions, or any recognition of the ultimate truth of life, which, according to this piece, is death. Many lives can be summarized by the lines "Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the Shadow". These same lines describe the character Kurtz from Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness very well.

Kurtz is the prime example of Eliot’s “hollow man”. He was so driven by selfish and wild dreams that it cost...
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