Compare and contrast the ways (themes/technique) in which the individual is embedded in or alienated from his environment in Claude McKay's "When Dawn Comes to the City" and Langston Hughes's "Pushcart Man"?

By comparing and contrasting the themes and techniques used in Claude McKay's "When Dawn Comes to the City" and Langston Hughes's "Pushcart Man" the reader sees the authors's differing messages on people's interactions within their surroundings. McKay's use of characterization helps readers see the theme that a person's environment can impair their sense of happiness, while Hughes's use of characterization shows the theme that man can rise above the negative elements of setting and still find peace and happiness.

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While McKay's "When Dawn Comes to the City" and Hughes's "Pushcart Man" both involve bustling life in the city, the characters that are the focus of the two poems have two different interactions with the urban environments in which they find themselves.

The character in "When Dawn Comes to the...

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While McKay's "When Dawn Comes to the City" and Hughes's "Pushcart Man" both involve bustling life in the city, the characters that are the focus of the two poems have two different interactions with the urban environments in which they find themselves.

The character in "When Dawn Comes to the City" seems more oppressed by the setting than the pushcart man in Hughes's poem. He watches the actions of the city intently and seems to be intensely emotionally affected by the setting around him. The drudgery and sadness of the urban environment in which he finds himself causes him pain and provokes an intense longing to be in an environment that is more peaceful and rural. He is alienated from those who have accepted this environment and their places in it. His wishes for a different life outside the city cannot be pushed away from the forefront of his mind.

In "Pushcart Man," the speaker seems to be more emotionally distant from the arguing and conflict all around him. He has no real interactions with the people in the setting until his conversation with the young boy at the end of the poem. He is physically in the environment, but his focus is on himself and his purpose, which is to sell his potatoes and tomatoes. In this way, he is immune to the negativity of the city and is accepting of its pandemonium.

While his quiet nature seems to alienate him from the angry and judgmental people that surround him, he has managed to find peace with his individual place within his environment and is determined to make the best of his situation, offering compassion in the form of giving a sad boy money to replace the destroyed pint of milk he dropped.

The characterizations of the two main characters and their opposing responses to their environment show the authors's differing themes or messages to the reader.

McKay's use of characterization in his poem seems to forward the idea that a man's environment can bring him pain and inner turmoil while Hughes's use of characterization seems to convey that man can use his inner reserves to rise above his environment and still find peace and contentment with his life and circumstances.

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