Some similarities can be drawn between the poem hollow men and the short play ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’. The characters described in the poem are people who have become uncaring and unable to have empathy. The hollow men are described as men devoid of their souls and acting for the reasons of their gratification and misery. “The hollow men” draws parallels with the play ‘The Importance Of Being Earnest’ because the two literal pieces describe the hypocritical behavior of people.
The hollow men are described as ‘hollow’ and ‘stuffed with straws’. This description is used to describe the shallowness of the characters, their voices are equated to wind in dry grass. The characters in the play are also inconsiderate and quite unexpressive of their true feelings. The symbol of earnestness in Victorian culture is symbolized by Lady Bracknell who comes from a not well to do family yet she enforces strict rules to beat the proliferation of ‘undeserving people’ to the higher echelons of the Victorian culture. This can be considered as an inconsiderate way of dealing with people who share the same origin as yours. The person who discredits where she comes from lacks depth.
Lady Bracknell is of the idea that wealth affords more importance than breeding. The beliefs she holds dear make her strongly opinionated and a pushover to people who are less endowed. Bracknell tries to enforce the same qualities of prioritizing wealth to her daughter. This is unexpected and shallow because we as the audience expect Bracknell to relate with her daughter who does not value wealth alone.
“The hollow men” is a poem describing the hollow men leaning on each other. The lack of spine for some means that they are not able to face the truth and they live with others who are lying to themselves. The lies of the characters in the play are many since most of the characters display double lives. The daughter of Lady Bracknell, Gwendelon Fairfax for example is a daughter who is at loggerheads with her mother for trying to conform her to the Victorian culture which she does not wish to hold astutely. Despite the differences she shares with her mother Gwendelon still maintains calm and poise when dealing with her mother in the public. In the household however, we see that Gwendelon is constrained by the strict values of their family and rebels at every high handed proposition that her parents try to offer.
The hollow men are described as having a shape but lacking form. The characters of the play have two oscillating characters that move in between their ignorance or shallowness. The main character Jack Worthing lives as a respectable magistrate even though he has a fictitious alter ego of Ernest. Worthing is portrayed by Oscar Wilde as a symbol of respectability in the society. He is cultured and respected with knowledge of reputable behavior in a respected society. Jack has a hedonistic lifestyle while in town while he demonstrates a reserved nature when in the countryside. The double life of Jack does not however cause him to lack depth though it demonstrates the difference of his beliefs and conflicting behaviors.
The character of Jack develops the need to become different and escape from conformities. This shows the shallowness of the people in the community. The social constraints are taken to be stifling even though people still observe them. This difference of what the individual feels and what the society wants to conform to can be linked to shallowness of the members of the society. Jack makes a garb about his brother’s death and gives a funny story about the French maid, this quality makes him seem witty and non-conformist to the requirements of the masses.
The other character coming out as hollow in the play is Cecily’s governess known as Miss Prism. She is ardent on teaching Cecily the Victorian cultures but she is herself having a longing for adventure and passion. She frequently reads a romantic novel and flirts with the local vicar. The adventures she longs for are quite contradictory to the way she requests Cecily to stop being naïve. There are some parallels to the things she wants and the things Cecily wants yet she advises Cecily not to follow her heart.
The persona in the hollow man poem describes himself as ‘wearing deliberate disguises’. The disguises are described as ‘the rat’s coat, crow skin, crossed staves… behaving as the wind behaves’. The characters that are hiding their true desires and passions are wearing a disguise and they behave just as the other people would want them to behave. The characters in the play waver according to the social desires and norms while disregarding their personal interests.
Algernon Moncrieff is less serious compared to Jack even though he is quite similar to Jack. They both see the high handedness in the Victorian culture and society. Algernon responds to the allegations of speaking nonsense from Jack by saying that he speaks nonsense because other people rarely speak it (Wilde 199-200). The shallowness of Algernon is characterized by his obsession to dress at his best and his love for champagne. The character of Algernon can be described as happy go lucky. He rarely puts substantial effort in what he does but he is still able to pull off what he strives for.
Algernon proposes to someone he met for 10 minutes and pleasures in eating muffins when there are things that are messy with his life this trait makes him have reckless abandon in his dealings. The shallowness of Algernon in the novel is displayed by his ability to buy into the imaginations which he creates for himself. Algernon has a vanity fair for clothing, flair and food. He says that “(he) never have any appetite unless (he has) a buttonhole first" (71) to mean he would not be caught without a tie.
The hollow men are described as existing between an idea and reality. The idea for which people live for are different from what reality would reveal later on. Therefore, it would be hard or shallow to expect a perfect idea or notion to rule over your life. For example, the character of Jack tries to create respectability from fellow friends despite his traits of dishonesty when Jack comes out with the truth to Cecily. Cecily addresses him as her uncle out of the respect that Jack could muster even though Jack is an impostor.
This causes Jack to distant himself with Algernon because he is ‘hardly serious enough’ according to Jack (Wilde 79-83). Jack maintains respect despite their two timing impersonation, the trait is expressive of how much the character lacks depth. The characters in the play are held between a rock and a hard place, because they put up with unnecessary habits to fit in or to free their inner desires and at the same time they strive for honor amongst themselves.