Essay Question 1: Discuss the lines in “The Hollow Men” that explicitly state disillusionment. How does this tie into Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?
Answer: “The Hollow Men” is a poem which depicts immense distress and devastation. It comprised of heartfelt written lines from a mind which witnessed despair and anxiety and is willing to venture every possible way to get out of it. As an overview, the term “hollow men” refer to minds at their adversative states. As we go through the poem, certain lines obviously express extreme disilusionment and a mass of drought and disorder.
Every entity may it be a mortal creature or a divine one seemed to be useless. Most probably because this literary work was created only a few years after World War I, wherein the hangover or post effects of war still remains.
The first stanza shouts deprivation from their ability to convey, to be capable of being perceived by their senses and to interrelate.
The coalescence of their voices resulted only to an unheard whisper. Unheard cries as described by “quiet and meaningless”. These soulless creatures existing in a subjective realm which refers to twilight setting awaits the dawn. No nobility or rank could rescue them from the aftermath of the prevailing wreckage. “Paralysed force” and “Gesture without motion” conveys that the products of both great minds and idiots seemed to be equal since no ears has the ability to hear and comprehend it anyway. A life full of exhaustion waits since the continuous search for the meaning and value of life and existence will all be in vain. There is vagueness in their quest for their sense of purpose as described in “Shape without form, shade without color”. Violence and the tendency seemed to be the last resort. When the situation calls to hold at the edge of a knife, the lines further express that they are not to blame.
The sunlight on a broken column, the voices carried by the winds singing and a fading star can be related to a tiny spark of hope. Hope seemed to be very distant and almost nonexistent, like a grain of sand in the ocean. This desire for hope, rebirth and salvation led him to formulate a “dream kingdom,” a land of his own, existing only within the depth of his minds. This feeling of despair led to the mentality that life could be much better after death. To “wear such deliberate disguises” suppresses his identity and lets him be swallowed by a throng of hollow men. A multitude of hollow men does not make them united instead they still suffer the hell of solitude.
The message of third stanza describes the feeling of being situated in a hopeless case. Dead land and cactus land are perfect correspondence of unproductivity, uselessness and nothingness. The existence of a forlorn soul in a barren land describes the highest level of disillusionment. With no one to run to and nobody to listen there exists no resort but to contemplate on the transcendental.
The lines on the fourth stanza illustrate the malfunctioning of the senses, most probably the instincts and natural perception. The consequences of severe cynicism and frustration led to numbness. “The Eyes” seem to be his own senses which were eventually lost due anguish, apathy and distress. The “valley of dying stars” depicts the land of unseen hope. The “hollow valley” is place wreck and damnation. But a percentage of his sanity is still allotted to the reappearance of “The eyes”. That peeking hope of “empty men” or wandering souls of meaningless existence is compared to a “multifoliate rose” and a “perpetual star”. The rose could denote love and the star could refer to an unending nurture, collectively both symbolisms retaliates redemption.
The “Prickly pear,” satirized from the nursery rhyme “The Mulberry Bush” tends to grow only in desert areas. These hollow men who live in “the desert” or the land of barrenness sang their frustrations as they seem to remain there, at the state of infinity or circularity without a sign of flight. “The Shadow” exists between the real and the world after death. “The Shadow” could relate as if the existence is within the walls of the purgatory. These are all products of the mind, may it be the reality or the idea. Escape from the harsh reality and emptiness towards living in the ideal world are all formulated within the depths of his depression. Muttering “For Thine is the Kingdom” tells his submission to the Divine and his deepest contemplation on why the world’s fate is nothing but a solemn cry. When everything else seemed to be damned, these hollow men still remained to be hopeful of a Mystical being, definitely detached from them and capable of bequeathing their tremendous hunger for deliverance.
“The Hollow Men,” which originated from the deepest emotions and heartfelt appeals of T.S. Eliot is an excellent expression of disillusionment with the contemporary society. “The Hollow Men” are souls devoid of dignity. This may be attributed to the casualties and most especially the psychological post effects of war and colonialization. The writer’s certainty that the existing environment was culturally deserted was strong indeed. Conrad’s famous novella “Heart of Darkness” explores the depths of human excruciation and corruptibility. Examining the story, Kurtz’s greed led to his descent into cruelty and violence. His fate is analogous to the consequences of domination and colonization from nation to nation, on a large scale. Dark men were also described in such a way that they are uncivilized. It shows Conrad’s objections to European colonial practices in Africa. The similarities of both literary works include the thematic approach, despair and justification of the negative for survival. These two literary works become parallel in the pattern of pursuit and fiasco.
Discussion Q1: (Hero versus Anti-Hero) Discuss how the anti-hero is different from other more heroic characters in literature and film.
DQ1 Answer: In a typical film or story, a hero somewhat appears to be a knight in shining armor, ready to rescue a damsel in distress. A hero is described by a man of astonishing courage and extraordinary quality who has the tendency to commit acts of bravery. In a story, these qualities can automatically be attributed to the main character or the protagonist. A hero plays a vital role in the progress of the story. Also, not a single negative quality is associated to a hero, making him perfect. Superman may enter our minds with these descriptions. An anti-hero on the other hand is a hero possessing non-heroic characteristics. It may usually be mistaken as a villain or an antagonist. However, an anti-hero is a protagonist in a non traditional way. One classic example is Robinhood, who tends to steal from the rich to help the poor. His imperfections particularly being a theft made him a suitable anti-hero but also turned him to a more realistic character, as opposed to a perfect yet nonexistent character such as Superman. The emergence of an anti-hero in literature and film may be because a typical hero in literature and film seemed to be too good to be true, therefore unrealistic. Some writers materialize in their literary works the attributes that they conceive in the real world.
Discussion Q2: (Anti-Hero Characteristics) Discuss how Pablo in “The Wall” is an anti-hero. Pinpoint exactly what makes him “anti.”
DQ2 Answer: Pablo is obviously the protagonist in the story. However, he doesn’t have any super powers and he is not even packed with ultra positive traits. Browsing upon the story he is a hard headed, sullen and cold hearted man that you would least expect in terms of offering salvation and hope to his fellow prisoners. Amidst being a captive and a candidate for execution, a hero is anticipated to initially encourage the other prisoners and liberate them from “the wall” or from that despairing situation. To a lesser extent or for a more realistic heroism, a hero is expected to lead them out of such circumstances or rather plot a plan of escape, thinking less of himself for the sake of others. However, Pablo did nothing but fumble and wait for a miracle or for the time of their execution. He even got busy getting annoyed with the other prisoners. At the end of the story he has obviously no intentions of squealing where to find Gris. However the story concludes as he unintentionally and accidentally revealed the hiding place Gris making him even less of a hero. He did not managed to render salvation to other prisoners and worse he paved the way for the capture of one of his colleagues.
Discussion Q3: (Anti-Hero Actions) Discuss the anti-heroic characteristics that Colin demonstrates in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.
DQ3 Answer: Colin plays the role of the main character in the story. As a typical hero uses his extraordinary qualities or strengths to solve his problems, Colin could do nothing to suppress his family’s problems and his own frustrations. He seemed to be a useless piece of crap, furthermore adding insult to the injury when he opted to rebellion to escape his problems. He squandered some of the insurance money that he obtained from his mother rather than using it to help himself and his family. Colin’s anti-heroic quality is generalized by his rebellious nature.
Discussion Q4: (Protagonist and Antagonist) Discuss your reaction to Colin’s behavior at the end of the film. Discuss how you distinguish the protagonist from the antagonist in the film.
DQ4 Answer: I became quite frustrated with his behavior or approach to such circumstances. Winning the race seemed to be his only ticket out of his demise yet he chose to be submerged in his murky situation. Although it was obvious that the Governor only used him to attain his political ambitions, there is nothing wrong with hitting two birds in one stone. Winning the race would mean popularity for the Governor at the same time a relatively better life for Colin. He chose to lose and suffer the same fate as the other rehabilitated people although he was greatly capable in winning the race. As the title says, the protagonist automatically refers to the long distance runner, which is Colin. Going through the story, we can say that it revolves around Colin. The antagonist comprised of the Governor and the authorities, since they were the ones who ought to greatly affect and manipulate the main character. Being the protagonist does not necessarily mean possessing positive qualities and, on the other hand being the antagonist does not necessarily mean having negative qualities. In reading a story the protagonist is always the main character, regardless of his qualities. Positive and exceptional characteristics make the protagonist a hero while negative and disappointing qualities make the protagonist an anti-hero. On the contrary, the antagonist, whether he is a good man on not is somebody who tends to oppose or be in conflict with the protagonist.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. Kimbrough, Robert, ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1988.
Eliot, T. S. and Joan G. 1984. The Hollow Men. Kustantaja Hesperus Press. New York City.
Paul, L. A. 1951. Angry Young Man.Autobiography. Kustantaja Faber and Faber.
Sartre, J. P. and Andrew B. 2005. The Wall. Kustantaja Hesperus Press. New York City.
Richardson, T. 1962. “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” Movie.
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