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Essay Analyzing the Development of Violence as a Theme in “Father and Son”

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In chemistry, there are specific set of laws, which make sure to separate certain liquids and powders that are incompatible with each other, but if by mistake one or two incompatible chemicals or powders are placed with one another there is a negative reaction and similar to chemistry’s set of laws, “there are people like those certain liquids or powders; at a given moment they come into a room, or into a town, even into a country—and the place is never the same again. Things bubble, boil, [and] change. Sometimes the whole world is changed” (227). In The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes, the story of “Father and Son” echoes violence and tragedy, but more importantly, the story, challenges the notion of the “tragic mulatto” and by developing violence as a major theme, Hughes counters the misconception of “[t]he character [of the tragic mulatto, who] often goes crazy, commits suicide because of their inability to deal with their divided racial inheritance. Any positive qualities come from whites, and negative qualities are associated with blackness” (Raynor, Lecture notes 1/13). Although, Hughes is best known for his satires in The Ways of White Folk, he also uses themes such as violence to mask the protagonist's true intentions to challenge the status quo. Hughes develops violence as a theme in "Father and Son" by the use of foreshadowing, imagery and satire.
The story of “Father and Son” is carefully set up because the reader is informed that Colonel Norwood is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his youngest son Bert, though he was too stubborn to admit it. “This boy, however, was not his real son, for Colonel Thomas Norwood had no real son, no white and legal heir to carry on the Norwood name; this boy was a son by his Neg...


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...s read, ““Bert Lewis was lynched last night, and his brother, Willie Lewis, today” (255). This just shows how even though, Bert refused to be a “white man’s nigger” as opposed to his brother Willie, who was the “white man’s nigger” and faced his death, but since Bert actually commits suicide as a final act of rebellion, he has his victory (228). Hughes use of satire in the last scene is very clever because he challenges the “tragic mulatto” and he shows the readers that it is not his mix of race that kills Bert, but rather society’s rejection of him. The story of “Father and Son” relies heavily on the development of violence as the major theme throughout the story and as a result, Hughes is able to effectively use imagery, foreshadowing, and satire to show the readers the Bert’s defiance is no coincidence, but rather a carefully planned out execution of rebellion.



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