Reading the biography of Eliot and his later poems will guide readers to believe that the author subscribes to notions of existentialism. In particular, Kierkegaard’s idea of existentialism supports the idea that a human being’s essence equates his morality. In keeping with this, “The Hollow Men” suggests equality among notions of essence, morality and faith. Specifically, it illustrates Kierkegaard’s idea of existentialism. Similarly, Eliot also submits to Sartre’s existentialism, specifically the notions of being and nothingness. Unlocking the poem’s themes and literary devices will help to differentiate ideas.
In “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot’s suggests the difference between being and nothingness. The “hollow men” according to Raine (15), are “men whose lives on earth have been void, put to death by prudence—and whose after-existence, neither damned nor saved, is not an afterlife…” The men are not dead or spirits in purgatory. Instead, they are alive but live a meaningless life. They are “stuffed” (l.2) which confirms existence, hence they are not mere spiritual beings. However, they use a metaphor to compare themselves to scarecrows with heads “filled with straw” (l.4). just like scarecrows, they are feared, yet they cannot move or do anything to scare others because they are mere displays or the frightening power attached to their identity only exists as a notion.
The images of the men with “dried voices,” “shape without form, shade without color,” (l.11) connote their powerlessness. Having no form does not totally mean existing as spirits or non-human as some critics claim. Rather, this notion could mean living a meaningless life. Having no form but maintaining shape means one is a shadow and only physical matters cast shadows. Additionally, the men are “Paralysed force, gesture without motion” (l.12) which means that they cannot move or act. They are not free to