The beginning of the poem establishes that the Hollow Men live in a dry and barren world. The presence of cacti confirms that the poem is set in a desert. Dryness is a symbol for lack of life, as water is essential for all life. These guys don't have blood pumping through their veins; just straw. If you touched them, you'd worry they would crumble like a piece of ancient paper.
- Lines 5-8: The speakers compare their "dried voices" to the "quiet" and "meaningless" sound of "wind in dry grass." This is a simile.
- Lines 9-10: Also using simile, they compare their voices to the sound of rats walking across broken glass in a "dry cellar."
- Lines 39-40: "Dead" is a pun that refers to both the desert landscape or "cactus land" where not much can survive and also the condition of The Hollow Men, who are literally dead.
- Lines 68-71: The Hollow Men alter the children's song "Here we go 'round the Mulberry Bush" to "Here we go round the prickly pear." The prickly pear is a kind of cactus that grows in a desert.