The Theme of Emptiness in the Hollow Men

Topics: The Hollow Men, Heart of Darkness, Guy Fawkes Night Pages: 2 (514 words) Published: October 8, 1999
The Theme of Emptiness in "The Hollow Men"

"The Hollow Men," a poem written by T.S. Eliot shows the narrators disgust and his faithless attitude toward all mankind. He refers to the human race as being "hollow," (1) and having a "headpiece filled with straw," (4) which creates the feeling and theme of emptiness. Eliot also uses allusions, symbols, and repetition as powerful, and depressing poetic devices to make mankind seem hollow.

The theme of emptiness is clearly visible throughout the poem, and it begins in the title. "The Hollow Men" refers to mankind being empty, and that there is no meaning to their life, and no purpose for the hollow men to go on. IN the first section of the poem, the second stanza states "Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion." (11-12) Here Eliot puts strong ideas together in such a way that they seem to cancel out each other, leaving an empty feeling . In section three, Eliot used "dead," (39) and "cactus" (40) to describe the setting, and "In deaths other kingdom/Walking alone," (46-47) leaves the reader in an empty state of mind with no surroundings. When someone shouts into an empty, or wide area, it will always echo and repeat itself until it quietly dies off. This example of emptiness is expressed in the very last stanza of the poem, "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."

"The Hollow Men" starts out with two allusions, the first being "Mistah Kurtz-he dead," which alludes to a quotation from Joseph Conrad's novel The Heart of Darkness. In the novel, Mr. Kurtz travels to the African jungle and realizes that he cannot handle the uncivilized society of Africa, and becomes depressed and emotionally devolved. Mr. Kurtz was hollow due to no moral or spiritual strength, however he was not one of the hollow men, but is one of the "lost/Violent souls." (15) The second allusion is "A penny for...
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