The founding fathers constructed the Constitution with the notion that “all men were created equal.” However, many minorities still struggle for the same rights and opportunities as others. “Mother to Son” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” are poems written by Langston Hughes that use symbolism to exemplify the struggles of African Americans as they attempt to persevere through adversity. Hughes utilizes the stairs in “Mother to Son” and the rivers in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” as his main modes of symbolism. In “Mother to Son,” Hughes uses a worn staircase as an extended metaphor to parallel its flaws to the struggles of African Americans. The poem begins with a mother speaking to her son about the pressures of reality and telling him not to succumb. She tells her son, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” (Mother to Son “MS” line 2) to portray that her life is far from perfect like the stair of a white person. She describes her life as having “tacks and splinters….with boards torn up” (Hughes lines 3-5). These defects symbolize the problems in her life whether they were caused by her race or gender. Aside from the mother’s race and gender, her lack of education also plays a role in the hardships in her life. Hughes makes her limited education apparent in his use of her vernacular. Words like “ain’t” and “I’se” (MS lines 4, 9) symbolize the fact that Mother is from a Black background and she does not have sufficient education. These limitations, however, do not keep her from persevering and keeping a positive paradigm. She wants her son to realize that, though they may not have the best education or a more advantageous skin color, they must strive to overcome these hardships to reach their higher potential. In “... ... middle of paper ... ... a staircase that goes on indefinitely. In Mother’s speech, she never speaks of an end. However, she continues to explain that through her climbing, she has seen torn boards and barren floors. This parallels the idea in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” that Blacks will reach snags in their progress, but they must work past the snags in order to survive as well as flourish. Through the exemplary use of symbolism, Langston Hughes produced two poems that spoke to a singular idea: Black people have prevailed through trials and tribulations to carry on their legacy as a persevering people. From rivers to stairs, Hughes use of extended metaphor emphasizes the feeling of motion which epitomizes the determination of the people. Overall, the driving feeling of the poems coupled with their strong imagery produce two different works that solidify and validate one main idea.
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The history of African American discrimination is a despicable part of the United States’ past. Inequality among Black Americans prompts these individuals to overcome the hardships. This endurance is valued by African Americans and people all around the world. However, the ability to strive and maintain positivity in a difficult or prejudiced situation proves to be tremendously challenging. When people give up in tough times, they deny their opportunity to succeed and grow stronger. This paper examines the techniques that manifest the struggles of racism and the importance of conquering obstacles in the following poems: Dream Deferred, I, Too and Mother to Son.
The civil rights movement may have technically ended in the nineteen sixties, but America is still feeling the adverse effects of this dark time in history today. African Americans were the group of people most affected by the Civil Rights Act and continue to be today. Great pain and suffering, though, usually amounts to great literature. This period in American history was no exception. Langston Hughes was a prolific writer before, during, and after the Civil Rights Act and produced many classic poems for African American literature. Hughes uses theme, point of view, and historical context in his poems “I, Too” and “Theme for English B” to expand the views on African American culture to his audience members.
In line seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen Hughes says, “Don’t you fall now– For I’se still goin’, honey, I’se still climbin’.” What Hughes expresses in these lines is that just because the stairs become hard to climb at times do not quit. One of Hughes’ most important elements is symbols in his poem “Mother to Son.” She still struggles forward, no matter what may have been the bleakest moments of her life, where there seemed to be no hope. When climbing the stairs she is “reachin’ landin’s, / and turnin’ corners, / and sometimes goin’ in the dark”. Even though these are “home like” things someone may face on a staircase, they are actually metaphors that mean things that she has encountered in her life. She says that she reaches landings, which can mean that she has come up on places where she could rest. When she says she turns corners, it is when her life changes and she has to turn away from her original path that it was on. When she says “sometimes goin’ in the dark where there ain’t been no light.” This contrasting color imagery of dark and light shows the idea that it is always dark before the dawn and bad days come before better ones and just when it might seem as if there is no relief in sight, something occurs to get rid of all of your burdens. The mother then advises her son not to give up and let life get him down just because there are a few struggles in
His poems established him as a well known poet in Harlem. In two of his poems one titled “Mother to Son” and the other “Harlem” both have some comparison and contrast between the two. The poem “Mother to Son” is more of a free lyric flowing poem. In this poem Langston Hughes gets the message across in a powerful attack. The poem is narrated from a mother’s viewpoint and the wisdom she gives her son as read in the following lines:
For many years, African Americans were forced to live without a voice and many accepted the fact that they were seen as inferior to the white race. Although they were excluded from being a part of society, built up emotions constructed beautiful pieces of poetry that have become important aspects of today’s literature. Langston Hughes’, “ I Too, Sing America” and Claude Mckay’s, “The White House” will be looked at closely to determine how each poem portrays emotional discontent and conflicted emotional states.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers and Mother to Son, explained the importance of the woman, light and darkness and strength in the African-American community. Hughes made a very clear and concise statement in focusing on women and the power they hold, light and darkness, and strength. Did his poems properly display the feelings of African-American’s in that time period? It is apparent that Hughes felt a sense of pride in his culture and what they had to endure. After all “Life ain’t been no crystal stair!”(Norton, Line 2, 2028)
Langston Hughes was probably the most well-known literary force during the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first known black artists to stress a need for his contemporaries to embrace the black jazz culture of the 1920s, as well as the cultural roots in Africa and not-so-distant memory of enslavement in the United States. In formal aspects, Hughes was innovative in that other writers of the Harlem Renaissance stuck with existing literary conventions, while Hughes wrote several poems and stories inspired by the improvised, oral traditions of black culture (Baym, 2221). Proud of his cultural identity, but saddened and angry about racial injustice, the content of much of Hughes’ work is filled with conflict between simply doing as one is told as a black member of society and standing up for injustice and being proud of one’s identity. This relates to a common theme in many of Hughes’ poems that dignity is something that has to be fought for by those who are held back by segregation, poverty, and racial bigotry. The poems “Visitors to the Black Belt”, “Note on Commercial Theatre”, “Democracy”, and “Theme for English B” by Hughes all illustrate the theme of staying true to one’s cultural identity and refusing to compromise it despite the constant daily struggle it meant to be black in an Anglo centric society.
To analyze Hughes’s poem thoroughly, by using Eliot’s argumentative essay, we must first identify the poem’s speaker and what is symbolic about the speaker? The title (“The Negro Speaks Of Rivers”) of the poem would hint off the speaker’s racial identity, as the word Negro represents the African-American race not only in a universal manner, but in it’s own individual sphere. T.S. Eliot’s essay, mentions that “every nation, every race, has not its own creative, but its own critical turn of mind”(549). In another sense, different societies have their own characteristics, however, with a racial mixture, shadowed elements can be formed. If one were to analyze in between the lines of Eliot’s essay and Hughes’s poem, he...
Hughes uses figurative language like a metaphor in order to compare the two stairs. The author compares the two sets of stairs to the two types of lives people live: the easy and the difficult life. Hughes describes the easy life as a “crystal stair”, because the reader can imagine this stair being shiny, smooth, and clear. By the stairs being translucent, the author wants to show that the easy life has been planned and their life has a direction towards a great future. Hughes describes the difficult life as one with “tacks in it”, “splinters”, and “bare” because the reader knows that walking on these stairs would be unpleasant
Form and meaning are what readers need to analyze to understand the poem that they are evaluating. In “Mother to Son”, his form of writing that is used frequently, is free verse. There is no set “form”, but he gets his point across in a very dramatic way. The poem is told by a mother who is trying to let her son know that in her life, she too has gone through many frustrations just like what her son is going through. The tone of this poem is very dramatic and tense because she illustrates the hardships that she had to go through in order to get where she is today. She explains that the hardships that she has gone through in her life have helped her become the person that she has come to be. Instead of Hughes being ironic, like he does in some of his poems, he is giving the reader true background on the mother’s life. By introducing the background, this helps get his point across to the reader in a very effective way. In this poem there are many key words which help portray the struggles that the mother is trying to express to her son. The poem is conveyed in a very “down to earth” manner. An example of this is, “Life for me ain’t been a crystal stair (462).” This quote shows the reader that the mom is trying to teach the son a lesson with out sugar coating it. She wants her son to know that throughout her life has had many obstacles to overcome, and that he too is going to have to get through his own obstacles no matter how frustrating it is. Her tone throughout the poem is stern telling the boy, “So boy, don’t turn your back (462).” The poems tone almost makes the reader believe that the mother is talking to them, almost as if I am being taught a valuable lesson.
The poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” symbolically connects the fate of the speaker of the poem and his African American community to the indestructible and powerful force on Earth- the river. The river embodies both power and dominance but also a sense of comfort. The poem is a prime example of the message of hope and perseverance to anyone who has suffered or is currently suffering oppression and inequality in their lives and in society. The speaker in the poem pledges to the reader that with hard-work, determination, and willpower to succeed, he will get where he is going regardless of the obstacles and challenges he may face on his path of reaching his goals in life.
Thesis: The poems “Negro”, “I Too”, and “Song for a Dark Girl” by Langston Hughes was written around an era of civil inequality. A time when segregation was a customary thing and every African American persevered through civil prejudice. Using his experience, he focuses his poems on racial and economic inequality. Based on his biographical information, he uses conflict to illustrate the setting by talking about hardships only a Negro would comprehend and pride only a Negro can experience, which helps maintain his racial inequality theme.
Langston Hughes was an activist for the African-American community and made significant artistic contributions to the Harlem Renaissance throughout his career. In one of his most famous poems, “Harlem [Dream Deferred]”, he addresses the limitations and oppression of African Americans after the Great Depression. Many African Americans dreamed of equality, but often times that dream became neglected and pushed aside. In his poem, Hughes responds to a question about a deferred dream with a series of vivid similes, inquiring what happens to a constantly ignored dream.
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes is a compelling poem in which Hughes explores not only his own past, but the past of the black race. As the rivers deepen over time, the Negro's soul does too; their waters eternally flow, as the black soul suffers.