In "The Hollow Men" by T.S. Eliot, what have you learned about Eliot's view of humanity after WW I?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

T. S. Eliot writes that all men after World War I are "hollow." At the beginning of his poem "The Hollow Men," the line "Mistah Kurtz--he dead" appears. This is a reference to Kurtz, the antagonist of Conrad's Heart of Darkness--an evil man who dies after despairing of the state of humanity. However, the hollow men, their heads filled with straw and with "dry voices," have not passed to "Death's other kingdom," as Eliot writes in the first stanza of his poem. Instead, these hollow men wander the earth with "paralyzed force." They have no force but instead inhabit the earth as if they were dead.

The hollow men that Eliot describes are afraid to look the dead in the face--they seem guilt-ridden to look at the dead. Instead, they wonder alive but in a "dead land," a "cactus land." Eliot's view is that humanity has no ability to be human after the war. They instead are unable to show emotion, such as kissing people. The hollow men have no eyes and no ability to speak. They can't even complete simple acts, such as circling the mulberry bush in the famous children's rhyme in the final stanza. Instead, they live in a world of shadow. They seem unable even to complete a prayer, as the line "For thine is," which refers to the line "For thine is in the kingdom of God," in the Lord's Prayer, is incomplete in the final stanza. Eliot believes that after World War I, people lived in a world of shadows where they are reduced to being less than human and where God had deserted them. 

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The Hollow Men

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