The Hollow Men By T.S Eliot: Modernism

Nobel Prize winner in Literature, T.S Eliot is an acclaimed poet of the twentieth century. His work in criticism and literature played a monumental role in the development of the modernist style. Dealing with the terrors of the First World War as an outcome of an economy driven by the predatory profit motive; the inflicted horrors constituted the stylistic characteristic of modern poetry as the progenitor of distrust of authority, secular and religions, as well as rupture between soul and body. 

The world through the paradigm shift of political, social, economic and scientific dynamics had gone through a metamorphosis just to end up in an atmosphere of chaos, discontent, isolation and moral decay as depicted in modern literature. 

The Hollow Men as an acute embodiment of modernist style demonstrates all core elements of this new style as it deals with themes of fragmentation, isolation, and decay surrounding the damaged hollow men. Eliot depicts the fractured world around hollow men as "rats' feet over broken glass", "Lips that would kiss/ Form prayers to broken stone" 

Such visual depictions are expressive of the spiritual decay of the men, hopelessness, isolation, emptiness and discontent as typical consequential emotions and states of being experienced during the interwar period. 

Eliot also deconstructs the opiating dreams of the afterlife in Christianity in the lines "In this valley of dying stars / In this hollow valley / This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms." The men are unable to finish the prayer as their voices fade "For Thin is / Life is / For Thine is the" (Stanza V). 

The poem was written two years before Eliot converted to Anglicanism therefore it can be said that these lines showcase the poet's discontent with Catholicism. 

Undermining authority, distorting classical views and quotations, misusing punctuations and focusing on common over dignified are some of the salient elements in Eliot's poems. 

Though the poem describes people as "dead" and the world as the "twilight state of death"; this depiction of a state of being inhabited by emptiness, isolation, defeat and misery does not only characterise the discontent with religious ideals but also symbolises the tragic state decaying and waning European culture plunged into utter despair after modernist shift. 

If stylistically examined the progression of the storyline or parallel patterns that connect stanzas appear missing in "The Hollow Men" which gives away a sense of the fragmentary and isolated state of being. 

As typical of modernist style some questions remain unanswered, the poem raises questions and compels readers to contemplate and ponder over alternative solutions to problems of modernism inflicted on the hollow men as the poem is not prescriptive in any way.




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