Eliot's "The Hollow Men " is filled with images of futility. Published in 1925, the poem captures the feelings of the "lost generation" of young people coming of age in the aftermath of World War I. This seemingly pointless bloodbath left the younger generation feeling deeply shocked and disillusioned....
Eliot's "The Hollow Men" is filled with images of futility. Published in 1925, the poem captures the feelings of the "lost generation" of young people coming of age in the aftermath of World War I. This seemingly pointless bloodbath left the younger generation feeling deeply shocked and disillusioned. The sense of being stunned and emptied out by living in a now-meaningless world is communicated in the imagery of this poem.
Imagery is description that uses any of the fives senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Eliot's imagery tries to convey in sensory terms how his generation is feeling inside. For example, the title of the poem, "The Hollow Men," shows that people feel drained: they have nothing left to give, because nothing matters anymore.
Eliot also uses the image of the hollow men filled with straw so that they become "the stuffed men." This also conveys the sense of pointlessness people experienced. Being stuffed with straw is what is done to scarecrows: fake men. Eliot's generation feels, he argues, that they are simply going through the motions of being real humans: they are not truly alive. "Stuffed men" also refers to the stuffed effigies or figures of Guy Fawkes, which are burned in England on November 5. This holiday commemorates the foiled plot of Guy Fawkes to blow up parliament. This suggests that today's hollow men have a similar feeling of failure: their efforts, like Fawkes's, have been pointless.
Pointlessness is also conveyed in images of the hollow men's voices as "dried." That image suggests they are hoarse and can scarcely be heard. What they have to say, in any case, has no more meaning than "wind in dry grass." We can imagine the sound of the wind: it makes a noise but has no message for us. Neither does the silent, but painful and unpleasant, image of "rats' feet over broken glass."
The image of "This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms" also conveys the futility of speech. The war has broken the jaw of this civilization. A wounded, bound-up jaw cannot speak effectively.
A famous image that shows that this society has lost its voice and energy, wandering in a meaningless way, is the statement that the world will not end with a burst of drama or noise:
Not with a bang but a whimper.
There is something especially futile about a world that simply allows itself to peter out and hardly can manage more than a whimper as it expires.