The Hollow Men

Topics: The Hollow Men, Guy Fawkes Night, Guy Fawkes Pages: 4 (1435 words) Published: October 8, 1999
This is a paper I wrote on the Hollow Men by T. S. Eliot for an english class of mine a few months ago. I am currently enrolled at The Uni. of So. Cal. Hope you enjoy:Eliot starts his poem "The Hollow Men" with a quote from Joseph Conrad's novel the Heart of Darkness. The line "Mistah Kurtz-he dead" refers to a Mr. Kurtz who was a European trader who had gone in the "the heart of darkness" by traveling into the central African jungle, with European standards of life and conduct. Because he has no moral or spiritual strength to sustain him, he was soon turned into a barbarian. He differs, however, from Eliot's "hollow men" as he is not paralyzed as they are , but on his death catches a glimpse of the nature of his actions when he claims "The horror! the Horror!" Kurtz is thus one of the "lost /Violent souls" mentioned in lines 15-16. Eliot next continues with "A penny for the Old Guy". This is a reference to the cry of English children soliciting money for fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes day, November 5; which commemorates the "gunpowder plot" of 1605 in which Guy Fawkes and other conspirators planned to blow up both houses of Parliament. On this day, which commemorates the failure of the explosion, the likes of Fawkes are burned in effigy and mock explosions using fireworks are produced. The relation of this custom to the poem suggests another inference: as the children make a game of make believe out of Guy Fawkes , so do we make a game out of religion. The first lines bring the title and theme into a critical relationship. We are like the "Old Guy", effigies stuffed with straw. It may also be noticed that the first and last part of the poem indicate a church service, and the ritual service throughout. This is indicated in the passages "Leaning together...whisper together", and the voices "quiet and meaningless" as the service drones on. The erstwhile worshippers disappear in a blur of shape, shade gesture, to which normality is attached. Then the...
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