The Hollow Men Questions and Answers
- What is Eliot’s ‘ The Hollow Men’ about?
Ans. Eliot’s famous poem ‘The Hollow Men’, is, as the title indicates, the presentation of the hollow men and their world. Thus in the poem one comes across a world in the imaginative kingdom of Eliot which is people by the stuffed, formless and colourless hollow men. They aspire for death and are waiting to be ferried across by the Ferryman. And their frustration is increased when on turning back to their memories, they can only view a wasteland and realize the futility of romantic passion.
- Comment on the title of the poem, The Hollow Men.
Ans. Regarding the title of his ‘The Hollow Men’, Eliot explains that it is a combination of the titles of two poems namely, William Morris’s poem ‘The Hollow Land’ and Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Broken Man’. Also the phrase ‘hollow man’ can be found in Brutus’s speech in Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ and seems to have inspired Eliot to refer to men of the modern world who are unfeeling, inactive and lifeless..
- Bring out the imagery prevalent in the poem.
Ans. In Eliot’s famous poem ‘Hollow Men’, the imagery is elaborate and based on the hollow men of the human civilization. The images sum up the general human plight and prove that it is within poetry to present the social dilemma man. Thus in “death’s dream kingdom”, there are images like the “head piece filled with straw”, “this broken jaw of our lost kingdom” and “lips that would kiss from prayers to broken stone” which present the monotony and meaninglessness of the world.
- Comment on the structure of the poem.
Ans. The structure of Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men’ has been intentionally been made disjointed and broken by the poet to express the “broken appearance of our civilization”. The poem is full of undersized sapless lines and tentative rhymes which help the poet in creating an ambiance of enervation and void.
- What does the epigraph “Mistah Kurtz- he dead” mean?
Ans. The first epigraph in Eliot’s Hollow Men has been taken from Joseph’s Conrad novel The Heart of Darkness. These words were uttered by Marlow when he reports the death of Kurtz, an agent of a colonial country living in the heart of Africa. The character of Kurtz has been presented as cruel ruthless and barbaric in the novel, but Eliot wants to say that it is better to be evil that be inactive and dead like the hollow men of today.
- What does the epigraph “A penny for the old Guy” mean?
Ans. The second epigraph in ‘Hollow Men’ is a line from a song sung by children to raise money to buy fireworks on the occasion of Guy Fawkes Day. The reference to the notorious Catholic who plotted to blow up the Parliament is because Eliot wants to compare him to the modern hollow men and feels that they are like the effigy of Guy Fawkes which is stuffed and burnt by children.
- Explain: “Shape without form, shade without colour / Paralysed force, gesture without motion”
Ans. In these lines from Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’, the hollow men are described as having a dim shape without any symmetry or design. They have a dull appearance without any colour of vitality. Also, having no energy their bodies are paralysed and cannot move or be active. They only make signs and are like stuffed dummies.
- Explain: “Those who have crossed / With direct eyes, to death’s other kingdom”
Ans. In these lines from Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men’, those strong and violent men, men with goal and purpose having direct eyes are met like Dante, Kurtz and Guy Fawkes. They were men of action and though they have now gone to the other world after death, they are better than the hollow men. The hollow men sing that men of action remember them as hollow and stuffed men in a direct reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy where different men enter different regions after death. The purposeless and drifting men like the hollow men have nowhere to go and have to live in a no man’s land called Limbo.
- “Eyes I dare not meet in dreams / In death’s dream kingdom / These do not appear”. Explain
Ans. The protagonist of the hollow men speaks for his group in the first person. He does not have the courage to face the eyes of Charon, the ferryman and hence cannot cross the river and reach death’s other kingdom. There is also a reference to the story of Dante who could face the reproachful eyes of Beatrice, on account of the sins committed by him when he lived.
- What type of disguise does the speaker want to assume and why?
Ans. In ‘Hollow Men’, the speaker wants to take up the disguise of a scarecrow with rat’s coat, crowskin and crossed staves. The disguise that he wants to take up lacks all human qualities and highlights his emptiness and self-contempt verging on despair.
- Who receive the supplication of a dead man’s hand”?
Ans. In Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men’, the Poet wants to present a distilled vision of the landscape of The Wasteland’. Thus a dead and arid land is similar to its people which raises a stone image which is spiritually supplicated by its dead.
- Explain:” is it like …. Broken stone”
Ans. In this line the hollow men want to know the difference between the condition of the men in the wasteland and the spirits who live in deaths other kingdom. They make up alone at a time when they are fired up by the passionate desire to kiss a woman are offered a prayer to a broken image. The hollow men wants to know in what way the life of the spirits in the other world is different from their life, when they have the friends to enjoy life and material joys at their will.
- Explain: “The eyes are …. Kingdoms”
Ans. Here the eyes of faith are not to be found in this world. There is no hope of light and grace in this dark world. Life is like a desolate valley where the stars of fading. Thus, this life is isolated and incomplete like a single piece of bone from the entire human body.
- “In this last ……tumid river” Explain
Ans. In this line the poet presents the scene where while crowded together in the valley off despair, the hollow men grope in darkness. They are dejected and silent. They face the swollen river of Limbo. They are waiting for Charon, The ferry man with sharp eyes who is to carry them to the next world. It has a reference to Dante waiting near Purgatory for Beatrice to guide him to Paradise.
- Explain: “Here we go …. The morning”
Ans. This is a nursery rhyme. The hollow men are moving around the prickly pear trees instead of the mulberry bush. It indicates that their life is full of useless motion and frustration.
- Explain: “Between the idea …… Falls the shadow”
Ans. These lines have a reference to the conflict in the mind of Brutus regarding his conspiracy to murder Julius Caesar. The soul of man yearns for the vision of god but on account of the weakness of his body his resolution for the spiritual progress does not take the form of action. The shadow refers to the shadow of fear or the anxiety death which leads to frustration and that inability of man to translate his ideas into action.
- Explain: “This is the way…. World ends”
Ans. This line is a parody of the nursery song about the gun-powder plot. Guy Fawkes wanted to end the world through a deafening explosion but the burning of his effigy shows that the world did not end. On the contrary, his effigy burnt away quietly.
- “For thine is the kingdom”- Explain
Ans. This is part of the Lord’s Prayer which runs “For thine is the kingdom” (Amen). This phrase is used by the poet to emphasize that due to procrastination the prayer could not be completed or was postponed. Thus for the hollow men life is very long and sad as they cannot even pray successfully.
- How does the poem end?
Ans. It is very interesting that Eliot’s poem “Hollow men’ does not provide any vision or any release or even any ray of light or hope. The cataclysmic violence of the world continues and the spirit of the hollow men is confined, strangely to a childish nursery world of make belief.
- In section five of Eliot’s poem, the expression “Falls the shadow” appears thrice. What does it suggest?
Ans. The expression is presented three times to show that the hollow men go around and around the same world of winter and death. It is also a suggestion of melancholy and skepticism and it is the paralysis of the will. The shadow falls between the conception of an idea and the creation of it in action and between the urge of emotion and realization of it in action.
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