The Hollow Men
by T.S. Eliot
Everything around the Hollow Men is broken – nothing is complete. You wouldn't want to lend anything valuable to the Hollow Men or it would probably come back broken. Images of broken objects symbolize the fragmented spiritual condition of the Hollow Men.
- Line 9: The image of rats walking across broken glass makes us shiver. You can hear the pitter-patter of their little feat and the scratching of glass on a dry floor.
- Line 23: In this complicated metaphor, the vision of the eyes is compared to rays of sunlight falling on a "broken column." Columns are a symbol of culture: at a literal level, they support buildings. Does the broken column represent the Hollow Men or something else?
- Lines 50-51: The Hollow Men would kiss if they had someone or something to kiss, but instead they must pray to "broken stone," a symbol of a particularly barren and lifeless religious monument. You might also think of a gravestone.
- Line 56: Here is another confusing metaphor. The "lost kingdoms" of the Hollow Men are compared to a "broken jaw." The jaw might refer to the Biblical story of Samson, who killed a thousand of his enemies with the jawbone of donkey.