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How does the mood of "The Naming of Cats" differ from that of "The Hollow Men?"

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sharonkwicox | Honors

Posted April 24, 2012 at 4:05 PM via web

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How does the mood of "The Naming of Cats" differ from that of "The Hollow Men?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 24, 2012 at 4:23 PM (Answer #1)

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Both poems by T.S. Elliot, "The Naming of Cats" and "The Hollow Men" differ mainly in both length and mood. One has a more joyous tone, while the other is bleak and sombre.

"The Naming of Cat" is a celebration of cats and their quiet, private manners; people can give a cat its name, but can never know its inner name, that which makes it an individual rather than part of a collective:

When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
(Elliot, "The Naming of Cats," famouspoetsandpoems.com)

The tone is bouncy and carefree, with repetition and syncopated rhyming, showing how the name itself is something to be cherished and never revealed; it is private and entirely personal to the individual cat. Cats are joyous creatures and their relation to humans occurs outside their personal self; the poem pulses with heartbeat and the love of life.

In sharp contrast, "The Hollow Men" is more famous for its final lines:

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
(Elliot, "The Hollow Men," poetry.poetryx.com)

Throughout, Eliot uses dark and foreboding imagery; "Paralysed force, gesture without motion;" "Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves;" "The supplication of a dead man’s hand." This poem does not rhyme, nor does it follow a strict pattern; it is almost random in its hammering depression. Each line carefully showcases darkness, fear, and worry; the last lines in particular show futility, the pointless nature of existence, that nothing of consequence can occur, and instead everything ends "with a whimper," in solitude and despair.

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