“We are the Hollow Men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw” Although the poem has a direct allusion to the historical account of Guy Fawkes, it can also apply to the content of The Great Gatsby in that the key character has a quest to find meaning in his life. The narrator of the Hollow Men is asking the question that mattersWhat is the meaning / purpose of life? Hence the direct philosophical relationship to NIHILISM. Def: Nihilism: (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position which argues that existence is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value. Look at the apparent images of paradoxseemingly impossible contradictions◦ “shape without form, shade without colour ◦ Paralysed force, gesture without motion” This is the paradox of life- Faith vs Reason. Those that have crossed with direct eyes are those that have seen ‘death’s other kingdom’ the reality of Heaven and Hell for themselves. The speaker has no passion for life, remember us well, if at all. He is, perhaps, empty? Hollow? Why would the narrator not want to meet our eyes, not even in dreams? Eyes are the window to the soul, he is afraid he has no soul- Nihilism! He finds that he cannot look into the eyes of the Hollow Men, (others/us)- stuffed with straw- again a paradox, but a pointed comment on the reality of existence as he sees it! There is a tree swinging… a reference to Judas Escariot hanging himself on a lonely tree, testament to the idea of those who fail to live. Than a fading star…another reference to faith. Rats Coat, crowskin, crossed staves… another The star that signified the birth of Christ and the light of the world. If the star is fading is he implying that the influence of Christ is fading? reference to Hollow Men, this time scarecrows, but also pointing towards a reminder of Christ's crucifixion. Again the final meeting is his own judgment, he is afraid he has made the wrong philosophical choice! Blaise Pascal and his ‘Cosmic Gamble’- Cosmology and Ontology! This is the dead land..the cactus land..stone images… a precursor to Eliot’s more famous poem The Wasteland, images of religious edifices raised to remember the dead, hollow men. …supplication of a dead man’s hand/ under the twinkling of a fading star..” Symbolic of the movement of the sign of the cross over a grave, but under the dying influence of a fading star. Irony. Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness… The narrator pities himself, fears intimate relationships, but turns passion to prayeragain, irony perhaps? Lips that would kiss/ form prayers to broken stone… In this Hollow Valley/ This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms… An image of futility and hopelessness…the valley of death. In this last of meeting places we grope together and avoid speech Gathered together on the beach of the tumid river… A more powerful stanza, groping together in silence for physical comfort and unity. Implying fear. Paralyzing fear- perhaps of death or the unknown. Tumid river refers to the Styx, the mythical river that leads to the other kingdom, or it could refer to the baptismal river that leads to salvation. Equally fearsome. …perpetual star Multifoliate rose The hope only Of Empty Men A reference to the risen Christ. The redemption of men, through Jesus’ death, that is the only hope of empty (hollow) men. Again Irony. What is the shadow..? It falls between the intention and the reality. The conflict between what is real and what is believed. Its is the shadow of consequence. He is judged on his actions, but he fears he has made the wrong philosophical choice. “This is how the world ends Not with a bang, but with a whimper” Futility and hopelessness. This is the issue that faced men of Eliot’s generation. The futility of the war affected the outlook and perspective of many post WW1. The economic hardships and reality of death at its most gruesome was evident. Was their a place for faith in this world? Not for Eliot, and he asks the big questions through his poetry.