In "The Ballad of Rudolph Reed," the style of the poem, the repetition and parallelism, and its explicit identification as a ballad recall much older English poems and aristocratic heroes such as Lord Thomas and Sir Patrick Spens. This atmosphere is disturbed in the third stanza, however, where the realities of decrepit buildings in a modern city make for jarring, disturbing images.
The connection of the abstract with the concrete in the wish that "every room of many rooms / Will be full of room" suggests how much dreams of concepts like dignity and freedom are actually dependent on physical realities. This physicality is picked up in the sixth stanza when Rudolph's "oaken" complexion is contrasted with that of his white neighbors. The word "oaken" has connotations of strength and steadfastness over and above the suggestion of color.
The archaic, heroic diction ("Nary a grin...Nary a curse") continues as Rudolph and his family move in to their new home. The poet remarks that they did not notice the frowns of their neighbors:
For were they not firm in a home of their own
With windows everywhere
And a beautiful banistered stair
And a front yard for flowers and a back yard for grass?
Their heedless joy is marked by the sudden departure from the ballad form and the change in the rhyme scheme, the re-adoption of which in the following stanza signals a return to grim reality. Rudolph is eventually goaded into responding to the attacks, arming himself and parting from his wife like an epic hero then dying after a brief foray into battle.
The bathos at the end of the poem emphasizes the helplessness of the family who remain. Rudolph's death has just demonstrated the consequences of retaliation. His wife can only remain "oak-eyed" (a variation of "oaken" which even more closely resembles a Homeric epithet) and tend to the wounds of her children.