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Although my research suggests that the hollow men probably represent Guy Fawkes’ dummies that are blown apart to celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, for some reason the first stanza has always evoked images of the strawman in the Wizard of Oz, desperately seeking a brain, not realizing just how dangerous, and useless, a brain might be. It’s never quite clear, particularly if you see this poem in light of poems like “ J. Alfred Prufrock,” whether having a brain is a good thing or a bad thing. These people certainly do nothing but whisper meaningless phrases, but is that because they don’t have a brain or because they think too much and have too little faith? Like Prufrock and Hamlet, they seem incapable of action. Those who have died, if they look back at all, would see them as lacking the passion needed to truly live life, paradoxically “hollow,” but at the same time “stuffed” with delusions, pride, or despair? Although the narrator almost seems to long for death, at least the kind of peaceful death where there is “sunlight on a broken column” and “voices are/ In the wind’s singing,” he fears death because he is afraid that instead it will be a “twilight kingdom.” Realizing his own world is a wasteland, a desert marked by stone images, the narrator fears the afterworld will be as void as this world and he will awaken with lips praying to “broken stones,” awaken in an abandoned graveyard littered with broken tombstones. The absence of eyes, the windows to the ...