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Word Count: 1,424
Eliot starts his poem The Hollow Men with a quote from Joseph Conrads novel the Heart of Darkness The line Mistah Kurtz-he dead refers to a Mr Kurtz who was a European trader who had gone in the the heart of darkness by traveling into the central African jungle with European standards of life and conduct Because he has no moral or spiritual strength to sustain him he was soon turned into a barbarian He differs however from Eliots hollow men as he is not paralyzed as they are but on his death catches a glimpse of the nature of his actions when he claims The horror the Horror Kurtz is thus one of the lost Violent souls mentioned in lines 15-16 Eliot next continues with A penny for the Old Guy This is a reference to the cry of English children soliciting money for fireworks to commemorate Guy Fawkes day November 5 which commemorates the gunpowder plot of 1605 in which Guy Fawkes and other conspirators planned to blow up both houses of Parliament On this day which commemorates the failure of the explosion the likes of Fawkes are burned in effigy and mock explosions using fireworks are produced The relation of this custom to the poem suggests another inference as the children make a game of make believe out of Guy Fawkes so do we make a game out of religion The first lines bring the title and theme into a critical relationship We are like the Old Guy effigies stuffed with straw It may also be noticed that the first and last part of the poem indicate a church service and the ritual service throughout This is indicated in the passages Leaning togetherwhisper together and the voices quiet and meaningless as the service drones on The erstwhile worshippers disappear in a blur of shape shade gesture to which normality is attached Then the crucial orientation is developed towards deaths other
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