"This Is The Way The World Ends, Not With A Bang But A Whimper"

Context: This quotation comes from the closing lines of a poem which, according to one of the commentaries upon Eliot, deals with "the emptiness of life without belief." The "hollow men" of the poem are those who have led empty and meaningless lives: they have been only "paralyzed force, gesture without motion." They have accomplished nothing; they are the product of the dry intellectuality of modern life. In the poem's first section they are contrasted with those who have crossed over into the world of Death with "direct eyes;" that is, with those who have had the strength to accomplish what they had planned. The "hollow men" are reminiscent of the vast throng that Dante saw on the dark plain, the souls of those who lived "without blame, and without praise." They are not "lost violent souls" but only hollow men. The last lines of the poem describe the way in which, for them and for so many of our desiccated generation, the end of life comes:

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.