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Emptiness in The Hollow Men

Emptiness in The Hollow Men

After Eliot had published The Waste Land, he felt as though he had not been able to fully convey the sense of desperation and emptiness in that work. Beginning with “Doris’s Dream Songs” and “Eyes I Last Saw in Tears,” he explored these themes, eventually uniting all such poems in The Hollow Men. The end product is a work that, unlike The Waste Land and its ultimate chance for redemption, has only the indelible emptiness of the hollow men as its conclusion. The hollow men are those who, in life, did not act on their beliefs; they resisted any action at all, and as a result stagnate eternally in “the Shadow,” a land in between heaven and hell, completely isolated from both. Eliot’s allusions give a familiar literary and popular basis to the setting, while the symbols and lyrical progression convey the futility and spiritual “brokenness” of the men.

The poem’s initial epigraph, “Mistah Kurtz– He dead” is the first of many allusions to Conrad’s novel, Heart of Darkness. Eliot uses the references to draw the reader’s attention to the moral situation of Kurtz and the others “who have crossed/ With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom.” These men and Kurtz defined themselves through their actions, whether or not they were good. In Baudelaire’s words, “So far as we are human, what we do must be either evil or good; so far as we do evil or good, we are human; and it is better, in a paradoxical way, to do evil than to do nothing: at least, we exist” (Drew 94). An accurate description of the condition of the hollow men, this quote has also been used in criticism of Heart of Darkness. Thus the (spiritual) stagnation of the “tumid river” and those who wait beside it is contrasted with the dynamici…

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…ubmission to a world that ends “not with a bang but a whimper.”

Works Cited

Brady, Ann Patrick. Lyricism in the Poetry of T.S. Eliot. London: Kennikat Press, 1978.

Drew, Elizabeth. T.S. Eliot: The Design of His Poetry. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1949.

Headings, Philip R.. T.S. Eliot, Revised Edition. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1982.

Moody, A. David. The Cambridge Companion to T.S. Eliot. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1994.

Moody, A. David. T.S. Eliot, Poet. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press, 1994.

Raine, Craig. “The Awful Daring of T.S. Eliot”. The Guardian. 21. August 19, 1988.

Roessel, David. “Guy Fawkes Day and the Versailles Peace in ‘The Hollow Men’”. English Language Notes, Sept. 1990. 52-58. Vol. 28.

Williamson, George. A Reader’s Guide to T.S. Eliot. New York: Octagon Books, 1974.

Essay on Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Orwell’s 1984

Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and Orwell’s 1984

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and George Orwell’s 1984, two of English literature’s most important and pervasive political criticisms, have helped to mold world opinion by offering new viewpoints and attitudes, yet these two novels differ in their means of conveying their satire of human nature. Whereas Gulliver’s Travels touches humanity with a humorous note and absurd situations, in order to reveal the public’s hypocrisy and society’s reprehensible behavior, 1984, in contrast to Gulliver’s Travels, presents dismal and depressing circumstances which forebode a heinous future and threaten human existence.

On his quest to reveal the inconsistencies and follies of humankind, Swift first offers the readers an opportunity to laugh at themselves (disguised as a Lilliputians), yet later, the readers find these humorous portrayals underscored with scorching and harsh social and moral satire. Observing the Lilliputians struggle for power in the little wars that they fight, Gulliver laughs at what he considers a joke, but in reality he laughs at human beings and their petty disagreements as well as their obsessions. “There is a good deal of fun in Lilliput, and with Gulliver we are able to assume a certain superior detachment and amusement at the ways of the pigmies” (Davis 86). Another instance of entertainment for the bystander and reader occurs when the Emperor of Lilliput attempts to conquer the entire “world” (obviously not cognizant of a world much larger than his Lilliputo-centric sphere), and to overtake the navy of his mortal enemy. Still laughing and unsuspecting, Gulliver initially follows blindly during his stay, and completes all the tasks assigned to him, for he believes in the goodness of the princes. Not until Gulliver’s disillusionment with the iniquity of the princes and emperor, and hence with human beings, does he refuse to follow orders. These initial feelings of blind trust seem comparable to the party members’ unquestionable devotion towards Big Brother in the novel 1984. At the moment that the Emperor of Lilliput accuses Gulliver of treachery, Swift clarifies his satire, that the Lilliputians merely represent miniature humans. (Davis 87). Words, then, that the Emperor and his staff had previously used, such as “degenerate nature of man, the great laws of nature, the miseries of human life” break the mold of the Lilliputian world and apply universally to the state of all humans (Davis 90). This short-lived humorous storytelling, offers a glimpse at the ultimate misanthropic messages and subtleties, which underlie the novel.

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