The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the relationship between ethics and death in "The Hollow Men"?

    The Hollow Men are unable to cross the river to the afterlife as those with direct eyes were able to do, because they don’t believe in it. The world of the poem presupposes a Christian cosmology that they cannot access, leaving them stranded. Interestingly, they are disparaged not only for faithlessness, but also for being too inert even to act violently. Amorality in this poem is worse than immorality.

  2. 2

    What does the star mean as a symbol in a naturalistic vs. religious context?

    The star is a symbol of both religion and science. It can represent the star of Bethlehem. It can also represent the sun, and by extension new naturalistic relationship to the world brought on by the Copernican Revolution, when humans began to study the heavenly bodies as physical objects rather than wondrous signs of God.

  3. 3

    What world is ending “not with a bang but a whimper”?

    The world that is ending is the Western Christian tradition, reflected in the fragments of the Lord’s Prayer, for example. Throughout the poem, Christian imagery reflects a religious desire, which is then countered by despair.

  4. 4

    Is there a possibility of salvation for the Hollow Men?

    The landscape where the Hollow Men struggle has become barren and full of broken things. Not only are the men hollow, but the valley is hollow as well. Even when the men try to pray, they find that they are praying to broken stone. So the world itself has been evacuated of meaning. There is no context in which the Hollow Men could consummate their religious desire.

  5. 5

    How does the broken syntax in "The Hollow Men" reflect the motif of broken objects?

    The broken syntax enacts the breakdown of culture, as language is an artifact of civilization. It is disintegrating and losing its meaning—just like the Christian West has been ruptured by the loss of faith.