Homework Help

What is the analysis of the poems of Langston Hughes relating to representation of male...

user profile pic

meelo89 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 20, 2012 at 6:08 AM via web

dislike 3 like

What is the analysis of the poems of Langston Hughes relating to representation of male and female in his poetry?

I read many poems, some of them are "The Negro Mother"; "Mother to Son"; "Same in Blues"; "Songs for Dark Girl"; "Madam and her Madam"; "Madam"; "50-50"; "Evil Woman."

2 Answers | Add Yours

user profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted January 22, 2012 at 3:26 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

[eNotes' format limits analysis of complex questions. I'll give an analysis of Hughes' representation of females in one poem. For more, you must post one or more other Questions.]

Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow.
Look at my face -- dark as the night --
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light.
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free.

The opening lines of Hughes' poem, "The Negro Mother," give one view of the representation of females in Hughes' poetry. He uses a paradoxical metaphor comparing the universal Negro Mother's face, "dark as the night," to the sun's light and to the simile "love's true light" in a complex compound metaphor. Thus, Hughes represents female as true love, true light, and the sun's light. The paradox is that such light should come from one who is "dark as the night."

The poetic phrase "dark as the night" has a literal sense and a symbolic sense. Some indigenous Africans with no European lineage had and have skin that is ebony in color tone. Many of the fist slaves who were captured for transport to the American colonies were of this skin tone; thus the metaphor "dark as night" referred in a literal sense to the rich ebony skin tones of early slaves. The symbolic sense in the metaphor may be seen as referring to the "white brother" perception of those "dark as night." A common perception was that Africans were inferior, without culture since without accumulated libraries of learning. Thus they were an internally "dark" people from a "dark" continent that lacked the "light" of civilization, culture, and intelligence. It is thus that Hughes' metaphor has a symbolic sense.

This aptly reveals Hughes' representation of females as the opposite of how the "white brother" percieves "the Negro Mother": instead of darkness, she is light; instead of emptiness of mind and soul, she is love; she is light and love shinning illuminescent through ebony. This ties in with another governing metaphor: within her body, she carries the seed of the free. Rather than being from a "dark" continent, she is from a land of freedom where she is respected and honored as free and where her children would live free. "Three hundred years" later, she is the origin of all the African Americans of Hughes' time who were fighting for their rights are free and valuable Americans who had the right to know no limitations of "bars" restricting movements, opportunities, dignity, honor and respect.

In sum, Hughes represents females in "The Negro Mother" as the source of freedom, love, and "light," which might be interpreted as wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, freedom, or truth or perhaps even the good path.

But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth .
God put a dream like steel in my soul.
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal.

Sources:

user profile pic

meelo89 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 22, 2012 at 4:20 AM (Answer #3)

dislike 0 like

I want to add that Hughes goes on to say that she,the Negro Mother,is the one who worked in the fields,whom they mistreated and whose children and husband they sold .Yet she remains nourishing to her children through her hard work and her dreams for them and she insisted to never give up .

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes