Monday Night Special #9: Delving in with Diagrams (to The Hollow Men)

16 Oct

We are the hollow grammarians
We are the stuffed grammarians
Leaning together
Diagrams filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried adjective clauses, when
We diagram and analyze together
Are quiet and meaningless

Arbitrarily Picked Work of Fiction:

The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot
For as much trouble as I had teaching metaphors and similes to the freshmen, I hadn’t expected the juniors to respond well to T.S. Eliot, but I put my back into it anyway, and the juniors ended up kind of liking Modernism.  Of course, I think all the crazy Dali paintings I showed them helped with that–as well as all the fun we had collectively saying WTF about Gertrude Stein’s poetry.

Quick Synopsis:

We are the hollow/stuffed men–empty because of WWI and full of meaninglessness–leaning together in a desert land reciting nursery rhymes and pieces of the Lord’s prayer and generally feeling empty and purposeless.

Important Quotation:

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

These serve as the final two lines of the poem and tie up the theme of meaninglessness in a nice little depressing bow:  The world will not end because of a big explosion or a big war in which people actually feel things and fight because of those feelings; the world will end because people feel their lives have no meaning or purpose and will pretty much just give up. The whole poem has led up to the essential emptiness of life, of having no direction to go.

Diagram:

 image

Thoughts on Structure:

The subject of the sentence is a demonstrative (this), which refers to everything that has come before it in the poem: the general empty, meaningless attitude the speaker feels.  The expression is vague and alludes to many different things at once.

We then have a predicate nominative–way–which is another rather vague word on its own.  An adjective clause modifies way to tell us this is the way by which the world ends (except it implies, rather than states, by which).

The rest of the sentence are a few prepositional phrases that tell us without a bang but with a whimper.

The sentence seems simple, but it is complex in a grammatical way–consisting of an independent and a dependent clause–as well as a philosophical way–consisting of contrasting ideas and deliberately vague language.

Final Thoughts:

I’m glad that Eliot became an Anglican, found some purpose in his life, and started writing bizarre cat poetry.  Feeling as if you have no purpose, meaning, or worth is a pretty awful feeling, especially if you’re going through rough times.  Praise God for His promises.

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2 Responses to “Monday Night Special #9: Delving in with Diagrams (to The Hollow Men)”

  1. James Samuel 16 October 2012 at 9:11 PM #

    Reblogged this on Stray Dog Review .

  2. silverscreenings 20 October 2012 at 10:28 AM #

    I really like your pick for Important Quotation. How true it is.

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