Karma, I think.

A response to TS Elliot’s “The Hollow Men”: http://allpoetry.com/The-Hollow-Men

Okay. Wow. So I really like poetry and I go to the poetry club every meeting and all of that. I read this on Monday night in a frenzy and didn’t really get the picture. I reread it Wednesday night and had a little bit better of an understanding but had too much homework to actually write a response. Today is Thursday. I still don’t fully comprehend the magnitude of this poem and I hope no one claims that they do because I don’t think we’re ever really meant to understand exactly what an author meant through a poem. I guess I’ll give it a go anyways.

Part III of this poem stood out to me because of the change in tone I perceived. Perhaps it was just the voice I was reading this in within my head, but I perceived a drastic change. While it may be true that the first two parts of the poem may have more austere language, I sensed them as being more aloof. Part III, however, brought my brain back to the poem through some pretty strong imagery. Elliot writes

“This is the dead land

This is the cactus land

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Under the twinkle of a fading star.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

At the hour when we are

Trembling with tenderness

Lips that would kiss

For prayers to broken stone.”

Reading this part made me think of how our world is being taken over by superficiality and dead promises. We have more things today than our ancestors ever would have dreamed of yet we fail to promote love! We fail to promote serenity! We fail to promote satisfaction, goddamnit! And it all really comes down to that. Because we do not promote the things that should matter, we are a society that can never reach satisfaction. Just because technology is developing does not mean that the intrinsic psychological needs of humans should not be gratified! TS Elliot gets it, man.

I suppose F. Scott Fitzgerald gets it too, but I’m partial to poetry. While Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, was realistic and the situations were by no means minute, it still felt like a story. It was just a story. On the other hand, Elliot’s poem is more than just a story. It is a story with fire. A story driven by fire, rather. This is not fiction. This is symbolism of the truths in TS Elliot’s life. Another one of my favorite parts of the poem is the fifth. I view the beginning portion of this poem as being the correlation to the beginning of Gatsby, with happiness and parties, and part V as being the end after all of the death and gore. This stanza from part V especially supports this notion:

“Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow”

What the shadow represents depends on who is reading this poem, I suppose. For Gatsby, it was regret. For Tom, it was greed. For Nick it was a lack of judgment, I think.

Karma. What goes around comes around, in essence. That is the message I pick up from both of these pieces of literature. We can only be so happy for so long before our happiness gets in the way of our meaning.


4 comments on “Karma, I think.

  1. First off, AMEN! It’s crazy when you think about how few of us live for our own satisfaction. “Treat yo’ self” should become just as common as “Carpe diem” or “John 3:16” or something else that people write and kinda-sorta follow through on. But, back to the poem. I really like what you said about the shadow from stanza 5; I never thought of that! (Probably because I suck at interpreting poetry.) It’s really interesting to think about how each character had a fatal flaw that led them from their best to their worst, and how both works of literature really echo the same message about justice.


  2. A thoughtful and strong response to Elliot’s work. Personally, I find poetry to be the most complex section of literature to analyze in-depth, and you did such an amazing job here. There’s a lot to discover when putting thought to The Hollow Men, and you’ve taken your analysis in a direction that I did not realize before. And although there’s a ton to pick out of Elliot’s poem, I think your response as well as others’ responses still bring out a lot. This is a strong-voiced and thoughtful response, Christi.


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