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The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men

by T.S. Eliot

Dreams, Hopes, and Plans Theme

At several points in the poem, the Hollow Men express vague hopes of being rescued by "the eyes." Do they think that the souls with eyes will come back on the last day of history and pluck them off the river to live among the stars? We don't know, but somehow we don't count this outcome as very likely, particularly when they are so afraid to meet the eyes even in their dreams. The stars represent the hope of salvation, but they grow dimmer and will probably be gone soon. The Hollow Men have no concrete plans and can't even finish a simple prayer.

Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

  1. Do the Hollow Men have any hope of being saved? If not, why would Eliot write such a hopeless poem?
  2. Is "death's dream kingdom" supposed to represent Heaven? Why would Heaven be a dream?
  3. What does the last stanza mean to you? Is the poem really describing the end of the world, or do the lines merely express a belief held by the Hollow Men?
  4. Why do the Hollow Men say that their vision can only be restored by a "perpetual star" or "multifoliate rose"? What do these symbols represent? How do they work?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

"The Hollow Men" is slightly more optimistic than Dante's Inferno because Eliot suggests the faintest of hopes that these lost souls might still receive God's grace, though they do not deserve it.

"The Hollow Men" are "blind" because their spiritual vision remains fixed firmly on the past, on their "lost Kingdoms."

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