The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The poem is mainly spoken in the first-person plural, except when a singular voice speaks, in the poem's second part.

Form and Meter

The poem is written in free verse; It is a hundred lines divided into two epigraphs and five parts. The final section is a complex combination of nursery rhymes, a liturgical antiphony, and pronouncements.

Metaphors and Similes


“We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men.”

The speakers compare themselves to scarecrows.

“The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star,
Multifoliate rose”

The eyes, a symbol of both faith and judgment in the poem, become the “perpetual star,” a symbol for the Christian faith, and then "rose," a symbol of both Jesus and Paradise.


“Our dried voices, when
We whisper together,
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rat’s feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.”

The speakers compare their voices to the sounds of “wind in dry grass” and “rat’s feet over broken glass" because they have the qualities of being "quiet and meaningless."

Alliteration and Assonance

"Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves"
Repetition of “c” and “s” sounds

"The supplication of a dead man's hand"
Repetition of “an” sound


“Here we go ‘round the prickly pear,
Prickly pear, prickly pear.
Here we go ‘round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.”

This nursery rhyme was derived from a fertility dance, which the poem reverses ironically by substituting the mulberry bush with a prickly pear, a type of desert cactus—which suggests desiccation rather than, as we would expect, fertility

“This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
This is the way the world ends.
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

In an ironic anticlimax, the last line shocks because it subverts our expectations of both the end of the world and the end of a poem.


elegy, choric ode, dramatic monologue, soliloquy, lyric, and meditation


a desert by a tumid river



Protagonist and Antagonist

The Hollow Men

Major Conflict

The conflict between faith and despair


At the end of the fourth section, the poem climaxes in the hope of "the perpetual star /Multifoliate rose."




First Epigraph: Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness.
Second Epigraph: Guy Fawkes
Lines 15-16 and 60: Canto 3 of Dante's Inferno
Lines 68-7 and 95-98: The nursery rhyme "Here we go round the Mulberry Bush."
Line 77: The Lord's Prayer

Metonymy and Synecdoche


“The eyes are not here,
There are no eyes here”

The eyes are a part of the body of the hollow men, the part that could see if they had faith.


“We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men.”

The poem personifies the “hollow men/stuffed men,” giving them voices as if they were human.



“Not with a bang but a whimper.”

“Bang” and “whimper” are both words that phonetically imitate the sounds they describe. The poem places them in contrast for an anticlimactic ending.