The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men Summary

The poem begins with two epigraphs alluding to two examples of "Hollow Men," one from fiction, the other from history. Then we are introduced to the main characters: a group of scarecrows leaning together. These Hollow Men narrate the poem in a chorus. They lament their condition: their bodies paralyzed, their language meaningless. On the other side of a mythical river, dead ancestors see and judge the men. One of the Hollow Men relates his fear of meeting the judging eyes of the dead while he is sleeping. They attempt to pray, but fail. In a desert valley on the bank of an overflowing river under dying stars, the Hollow Men waver between religious faith and despair. They dance around a cactus reciting a perverse version of a child’s nursery rhyme. Then in an antiphonic parody of a Christian worship service, a priest speaks and a congregation answers. The Shadow of death paralyzes all action and the language of the chorus disintegrates as they attempt to recite the Lord’s Prayer. The poem and the world ends an anticlimactic whimper.