English / Theme Of &Quot;The Hollow Men&Quot;

Theme Of &Quot;The Hollow Men&Quot;

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Autor:  anton  15 November 2010
Tags:  Hollow
Words: 649   |   Pages: 3
Views: 530

There is said to be a thin line between the planning and the execution a sinister action, as the idea is what first drives the motion. This is the central theme of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men,” in which the men depicted find themselves on the brink of hell, suffering not from their actions, but from their conspiracy to act.

Throughout the poem, it appears that the men feel that they have done nothing wrong. The title itself, “The Hollow Men,” indicates that perhaps there is nothing to these men at all—as if they have done neither good nor evil. The conspiracy that they appear to be contriving is not made clear in the poem. One can only assume, however, that is it of some evil nature in the way that there is so much attention drawn to it. In Part I of the poem, the men seem to be vehemently pleading innocent to the audience. They argue that their collaborations are harmless in the lines, “Our dried voices, when/We whisper together/Are quiet and meaningless/As wind in dry grass.” It’s as if they are trying to persuade their audience that their efforts were truly without any cruel intention, like a “gesture without motion.” The men seem to know deep down that they have committed a wrong in the way that they are fervently denying their guilt, as anyone ashamed of something well generally deny it more than usual. Yet this excuse of passive planning could never possibly emancipate them from a fate in purgatory.

In the third part of the poem, Eliot introduces this desert-like landscape which the men currently inhabit and refers to it as “the twilight kingdom.” The statement has direct ties to the Catholic belief in the levels of afterlife, where heaven is bright and stellar, and hell is dark and internal. As twilight is halfway in between day and night, purgatory is halfway in between heaven and hell. In this system, the place in which a person remains in the afterlife is in direct accordance to their sins and virtues; various sins cascade deeper down into hell and virtues escalate further into heaven. So what, then, of purgatory? Perhaps this is where “hollow men” fall, since they have neither transgressed nor done any good. Unfortunately for the men in the poem, their destination seems to be on a more portentous level. The final lines of part three describe the men as “Gathered on the beach of the tumid river,” which is the river one must cross to enter hell. Although one wonders what have these men done to deserve such a fate? The end of the poem finally reveals the answer.

Before the men are sent to hell, they receive a final justification for their punishment. It is stated that “Between the idea/And the reality/Between the motion/And the act/Falls the Shadow.” Here, the central theme and meaning of the poem finally come to the surface as one. After the notion of the action and before its execution falls the “Shadow.” In the case of the men, between their “meaningless whispers” to act and the act itself, came their demise. The “Shadow” is the condemning sin. Whether or not the deed is ever done is simply trivial. The mere perpetuation of the idea is a transgression in itself, and any action is merely a footnote. This is the mistake of the men, and will now spend eternity in hell as a result.

In the poem “The Hollow Men”, although not having literally done anything, the scheming intent of the men is aberrant enough. This discrepancy, or lack thereof, between the proposition and the motion, is the poem’s central theme and is ultimately what condemns a seemingly faultless group of men to hell.

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