illustrated portrait of American poet and author Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

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In the poem "Love Song for Lucinda" by Langston Hughes who is the audience and what is the rhetorical situation?

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Although the audience is never specifically identified in Hughes's "Love Song for Lucinda," the reader can infer that Hughes is speaking informally in second person to a general audience as he gives advice, wisdom, and, in some sense, warning, with regards to what love can be compared to and what those comparisons mean. Throughout the eighteen-line poem, Hughes uses forms of the word "you" four times, which indicates that he wants the reader to internalize the poem for himself or herself.

One of the rhetorical devices that Hughes employs is that of anaphora. Each of the three stanzas begins with "Love / Is a..." followed by a metaphor that he goes on to explain in the stanza. This set structure gives a cadence and predictability to the poem. Additionally, Hughes uses contrast effectively in each of his stanzas. After his anaphora and metaphor structure, he goes on to list a positive image related to that metaphor. For example, he states in stanza two that: "Love / Is a bright star / Glowing in far Southern skies" (7-9). However, each of those images is followed by the negative result that could potentially come from love of this kind. Using the same example, Hughes writes that the star's flame "Will always hurt your eyes" (12).

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