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Symbolism and Allusion in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers

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Symbolism and Allusion in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers

In Langston Hughes' poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", he examines some of the roles that blacks have played throughout history. Ultimately, the poem asserts that in every one of these aspects the black people have been exploited and made to suffer, mostly at the hands of white people. The poem is written entirely in first person, so there is a very personal tone, even though the speaker symbolizes the entire black race. The examples of each role cited in the poem are very specific, but they allude to greater indignities, relying on the readers' general knowledge of world history. To convey the injustice that has taken place, Hughes utilizes the symbolism of the speaker, and alludes to people and things in history, such as George Washington and the Egyptian pyramids.

The poem has six stanzas, and in examining the first line of each, we can see that the first and last are the same: "I am a Negro...I've been a slave...I've been a worker...I've been a singer...I've been a victim...I am a Negro." Under each ...
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