Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Hollow Men Review

As I am sure everybody knows, The Hollow Men deals with many of the same themes we examined in Prufrock and Hamlet (namely, the inability to act). Therefore, I thought it would be good to talk about two other features of the poem which might be more unique.

Eyes are a recurring motif in the poem, and their function reminds me of the Existentialist concept of the gaze. In section II, the hollow men want to stay far away from the eyes, which are like sunlight on a broken column (perhaps them men themselves?). They do not want to face their fate and sentence in the twilight kingdom. Later, in section V, we see the Shadow, which separates the minds of hollow men for reality. Such a mechanism reminds me of Bad Faith. Other Existentialist concepts are no doubt on display in this poem. Can anyone offer a more?

I think the children's rhyme verses in the poem are very interesting. We are provided with a footnote which helps to explain the significance of the verses at the beginning of section V. However, I think that something similar should be said for the verses at the end. The two sets of verses clearly serve as "bookends" for the section; it would be reasonable to assume that Eliot based his poem's final lines on a children's rhyme as well. If not "Here we go round the mulberry bush", perhaps "This is the way we clap our hands"? If we accept the imagery of going around in circles ("Here we go round the prickly pear") as a reflection of the lives of the hollow men, perhaps the bookends serve a similar purpose. How do you interpret the verses?


Samantha said...

Collin, I find your comment about Existentialism very interesting. I definitely agree that the eye motif represents the existentialist gaze. The more I think about the poem, I keep discovering additional Existentialist concepts. As we learned last semester, existentialists believe that people are defined by their actions. Since the "hollow men" fail to act at all, there is nothing present to define them. Consequently, they are hollow, both physically and emotionally. Therefore, the idea of the hollow men is very existentialist.

Julia said...

I agree with you both, Collin and Samantha, that the eye motif reflects the existential theme of "the gaze." While reading "The Hollow Men," I was constantly reminded of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." To me, Prufrock is the epitome of the hollow men Eliot describes. We discussed multiple corporeal references in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," including faces, hands, and Prufrock's balding hair. I could not find a specific reference to eyes, but I think that Prufrock's assertion in line 83 ("I am no prophet") relates to the eyesight motif. This also reminds me of Tireseus, who is an important figure in "The Wasteland."

Blaine said...

I also thought the eye motif in Hollow Men was really interesting. There are allusions to eyes throughout the story. Like Chrissy said, the hollow men do not want to face their fate in the twightlight kingdom. They look away from the judgmental eyes of "death's dream kingdom" who see them for the empty creatures they really are.