Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Category: American Literature (page 2 of 4)

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues”

Langston Hughes’ ”The Weary Blues” focuses on a musician in upper Manhattan. The musical instrument of the whites is taken over by a black, for, music is universal. His rendering of the music is termed as ’droning’. The term ’droning’ may refer to the fact how he labouredly delivered music for a living. Since drones thrive in communities, the music may signify the collective consciousness of the blacks. This is why probably the music is ‘syncopated’.’ Syncopated’ means stressing a normally weak beat. The aspect of the blacks-the Harlem Renaissance is foregrounded with the stressing of this weak beat .The musician oscillated to the music that mellowed to a sentimental humming(croon).

The poet has penned the phrase ‘”down on Lenox Avenue” instead on “up on Lenox Avenue” as blacks inhabited the Northern part of Harlem. The word “down” may also signify the architecture of Harlem colonies, with the multi-storied apartments looking down on the avenues, as people resided in the upper floors of the buildings. The lower apartments were reserved for business purposes. The African Americans were responsible for the birth of the jazz and blues music that was born out of “irresistible impulse of blacks to create boldly expressive art of a high quality as a primary response to their social conditions, as an affirmation of their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism” (Norton Anthology of African American Literature 929).…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son”

Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son” is in the form of a communication between a mother and son. The words of a mother to her children are the most sincere and earnest form of utterance. The title “Mother to Son” exemplifies a one-to-one correspondence between the two where there is more give than take. The language in dialect form brings out the rawness of feelings in their original form. She conveys to him the reality of life throughout the poem in the form of an extended metaphor of a crystal staircase. The metaphor is indeed very symbolic. The symbol of the staircase echoes that to reach the top, one has to start from the bottom rung. It at once stands as a potent emblem of luxury. The crystal staircase also gives one the impression of it not being there though it is, there, thereby connoting ease. It also emblematizes transparency. Again, its texture represents smoothness. Life, she signifies is not always a “smooth ride.

Well, son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

It’s had tack in it,

And splinter,

And boards torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor—

But all the time

I’se been a-climbing’ on,

And reachin’ landin’s,

And turnin’ corners,

And sometimes goin’ in the dark

Where there ain’t been no light.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “I,Too”

Langston Hughes’s “I,Too” is an assertion and affirmation of the black ego that has been always relegated . It is an attempt to subvert the dialectical pair white/black.

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”


They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

Hughes penned the poem at the age of 22 in the city of Genoa in 1924.The title of the poem by Langston Hughes has the black ego asserting itself. “I” stands for the ego. But the ego is not egoistic here as it declares: ”I, too.” The speaker wants a place at par with the whites.

America as a country has always been represented by the whites. The innumerable blacks that inhabit the country are relegated as citizens owing to the practice of Apartheid. Just as the East, they are viewed as ’the Other.” In their own country, they are attributed only second-class citizen status.

Singing is an expression of freedom. Walt Whitman emblematizes the action of singing in “I hear America Singing” as an affirmation of being American.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “Harlem-A Dream Deferred”

Langston Hughes poem “Harlem- A Dream Deferred” was written in 1951.The blacks were distraught with dreams and disillusionment after the Civil War had freed them from the shackles of slavery. Though they were liberated and granted the rights to vote by federal laws, the blacks were marginalized in all other significant spheres as they were limited to segregated schools .They were not attributed with the capacity to think and were restricted to menial work. Earlier, if the system of slavery downgraded the blacks openly, the current state of affairs had a ‘sophisticated’ way of doing it. The abolition of slavery was a dream the blacks nurtured. However, it transformed into –‘a dream deferred’ as though the dream was always reserved for the future tense. The raw comparisons verging on revolting images reflects the language of the blacks devoid of any sophisticated erudition, and is straight to the point.

The revision to the U.S. Constitution as approved in the post-Civil War period established basic rights to black Americans as American citizens. Nevertheless, the court and legislative laws later weakened the officially permitted security of the blacks. For instance, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1896 (Plessy v. Ferguson) that it was lawful to provide “separate but equal” accommodations for passengers of Louisiana’s railroads.…

Poetry Analysis: Langston Hughes’ “As I Grew Older”

Langston Hughes’s “As I Grew Older” reflects the regressive graph of the poet’s dreams as he grew older. The graph appeared to be inversely proportional to the progression of time.

Langston Hughes’s “As I Grew Older” represents not only his growth in stature, but the obstacles to his growth as an individual, and a member of society. The purpose of Life for a person is defined by his dream. He states that “It was a long time ago” that his dream existed. The lines that begin like a fairy tale point to a fairy tale existence–the aspiration of a black in a white-dominated society. The dream at the moment was right in front of him, an ‘in the face aspect’. It is likened to the sun .The comparison is apt, as the Sun stands for sunshine, brightness, the warmth of life and rays of hope. The light of the Sun also seemed to show him the way.

Subsequently, the poet brings in the metaphor of the Wall that grew when he was supposed to grown in its place. The wall referred to here is the wall of Apartheid, the invisible but sophisticated barrier. The wall is emblematic of boundaries,and barriers, and marginalization and segregation, as in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall’.…

Poetry Analysis: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “We Real Cool”

We real cool. We
Left school. We
Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We
Die soon.

The poem “We Real Cool” from The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks is one of Brooks’ most oft anthologized poems.” We real Cool” is a condensed yet terse statement on the recklessness of youth who are like cars without brakes in the frenzy of youth. They do not anticipate an accident awaiting them in their uncontrolled life.The line :“The Pool Players. / Seven at the Golden Shovel.” functions as the subtitle of this short poem. It echoes their Big thought in their small establishment.

They do it as they perceive it to be “real cool”. For them this non-chalance is the latest in-thing and a means to grab attention. The act itself gives their ego a boost. This ego is part of a collective consciousness as the word “We “is reiterated. The unrestrained rate and haste with which they function is foregrounded in the title with the absence of the word ‘are’. They are so much immersed in action that they do not find the need for a ‘verb’ to define themselves.…

Poetry Analysis: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Mother”

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”—Mother Teresa(National Prayer Breakfast Speech Against Abortion – 1994)

The mother is the ultimate with regards to the child. The age-old adage goes that God created mothers because He could not be everywhere all the while. Therefore,if the mother forsakes the child, that would be the gravest injustice in the world .The speaker in the poem asserts that the act of abortion would haunt her for life,and an albatross would be hung around her neck. The tone of the poem is accusatory with the persistent use of “You”. It is also to a certain extent impersonal, universalizing the issue of abortion. The line :” You remember the children you got that you did not get” is indeed a paradox. Nevertheless as one ponders on the word ‘get’,it has biblical associations. The word ’get’ may also function as a condensed form of ‘beget’. The enjambments of lines serve to illustrate the continuity of guilt.…

Poetry Analysis: Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Kitchenette Building “

‘Kitchen’ is the metaphor for the common woman’s arena. Though it is limited, it is ‘Her’ domain, her expression of freedom. Therefore, the phrase ‘kitchenette building’ must imply the institutionalizing of the domestication of Woman. To perceive her as belonging to the kitchen, her place. Women, as the house-hold keepers are supposed to be always available, with no questions, only commands. Whilst others do have their share of holidays, the kitchen-keepers are always expected to work irrespective of circumstances, and their conveniences. They are part of the kitchenette building compartmentalized into slots, and marginalized in the process.

They assert that they are things of the dry hours. They have no outlet as day by day; they succumb to their mechanical routine. They live a mechanized life as they run on the master’s commands. Theirs’ is not a fixed plan, they live a an ‘involuntary’ plan where nothing is fixed and pre-calculated as per their norms. When the speaker says ’involuntary’, she means that the woman works on the impulses of others and not on her own impulses. They are ‘grayed in” as tough they are ageing with force, rather than with the advent of time. They are often termed as a Dream-mate of a man: but this is limited to a dream.…

Poetry Analysis: Sylvia Plath’s “Tulips”

Flowers are emblematic of relationships. As they are given out on joyous occasions (marriages, birthdays) as well as on sad occasions(at the hospital, death).They reflect very poignantly the power of relations. It has both its positives as well as negatives. Sylvia Plath in “Tulips” portrays how she wanted to divorce herself permanently from her worldly associations as she was caught in an emotional rollercoaster ride. This explains her repeated attempts at suicide. The prescribed poem has been stated by critics, to be penned in the hospital after a typical suicide attempt. Tulips in the poem stand for “feigned empathy”. The poet Ted Hughes states that the poem was written when Sylvia Plath had suffered miscarriage and had to be hospitalized for appendectomy in March of 1961. This, he explains, is the reason for the recurring references to birth and death.

“The tulips are too excitable” asserts the poetess, as it brings with it the uncertainty of relationships. It is winter in her life, as there is gloom and frostiness all around. Though it is snowed-in, the atmosphere is peaceful as it is surrounded by white. The speaker claims that she has nothing to do with any sort of turmoil/(explosions) outside, or the hassle of relationships.…

Poetry Analysis: Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”

Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” is a revolt against established social institutions and power politics.”The speaker is a woman who has the great and terrible gift of being reborn.”The only trouble of being reborn is that first you have to die. She is the phoenix, the libertarian spirit, what you will. She is also just a good, plain, resourceful woman”(Sylvia Plath). The poetess in the poem visualizes herself to be the female version of the mythical archetype, Lazarus. Lazarus lay buried for three days in the grave till Jesus raised him from the grave. (John 11:1-44). The poetess inverts gender here, and mythification with reality. Here, she also refers to her own attempts at suicide.

At twenty in 1953, Plath attempted suicide by consuming a huge number of sleeping pills and concealing herself in the cellar beneath the house for three days. She tried it again by driving off the road, and survived the ‘accident’ yet again. In 1963, however, she won/lost to Death/Life. She often identifies herself with victims of persecution in the Nazi concentration camp due to the mental agony and anguish that she experienced. Both of these victims may be emblematic of the male dominated monopoly in society that she dies in and tries to arise from each time.…

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