The Cross By Tengston Hughes Summary

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Moreover, the title of the poem in itself describes the suffering of the African-American race and their struggle for an identity. “The Cross” shows the African-American’s identity dilemma as a heavy burden or a cross that the African-Americans are forced to bear. At the same time, the title associates the suffering and the struggle of the black race with Christ’s crucifixion. Another poem that revolves around the same theme is Hughes’ “Mulatto” which is considered a highly dramatic confrontation between a white father and his unacknowledged bastard mulatto son: I am your son, white man! Georgia dusk And the turpentine woods. One of the pillars of the temple fell. You are my son! Like hell! The moon over the turpentine woods The southern night Full of stars Great big yellow stars. What’s a body but a toy? Juicy bodies Of nigger wenches Blue black Against black fences . . . What’s the body of your mother? A nigger night, A nigger joy, A little yellow Bastard boy (Hughes 160-61) At the beginning of the poem, the impression of passion and violence are evoked through the staccato shouting of the speakers. The son-father conflict immediately surfaces: “I am your son, white man!” to which the father’s rejection is prompt: “You are my son! / Like hell!”. This answer implies the father’s direct accusation of the inherent inferiority of his mulatto son. The father goes on insulting both the “bastard son” and his mother whose bodies are nothing to him but a “toy” in a “nigger night”. Moreover, phrases such as “Juicy bodies”, “Of nigger wenches”, “Black blue”, and “Against black fences” suggest that the relationship between the white father and the black mother is devoid of any emot... ... middle of paper ... ...ississippi. In “Bitter River”, Hughes believes that the water of the Mississippi turns poisonous since the bodies of the African-Americans were being thrown into the river after being lynched. Moreover, Hughes’ use of the word “blood” is meant to carry two implications. Firstly, it may refer to the kinship—his estranged father that Hughes wrote the poem while he was on his journey to meet him. Secondly, it may evoke the issue of race and black color. In most of his poems, Hughes was preoccupied with the issue of the black race which “laid the foundation for the special bond between Hughes and African-Americans that led him at one time to be hailed as the poet laureate of the Negro race” (Andrews 310). Meanwhile, Hughes’ use of the irregular and unrhymed lines of the poem invokes the suffering of the African race that is violated by slavery and racism.

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