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1 LITR221 2017/06/30 Analysis of Symbolism in “The Hollow Men” T.S. Eliot created an intense, complex, and iconic poem in his 1925 “The Hollow Men”. His extensive use of complex symbolism, literary devices, and references to other works allow for a wide range of interpretations and meanings that subtly describe his observations of men whose only salvation may be in death. However, these hollow men cannot make their way into the afterlife. Among the elements and devices used, symbolism is among the most important for “The Hollow Men”. Eliot’s first introduction into the types of symbolism he intends to use can be found in the introductory epigraph:“Mistah Kurtz – he dead. A penny for the Old Guy”[Eli17]. Of immediate interest is the identity of Mistah Kurtz. The reference of “Kurtz” is to a character in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness . A servant informs Marlow (another character in the same story) that Kurtz had died. Kurtz was a symbolic character in Heart of Darkness for being very successful in the ivory trade in Africa, yet lacking morals and empathy[shm17]. In the case of “The Hollow Men”, Kurtz is an important symbol for a hollow man, for he lacked what might be described as a soul. Indeed, the use of hollow men as a description of war veteran is supported by the adjectives used to describe what the hollow men are filled with – and what they are not.

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