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Who is the audience and what is the rhetorical situation in Langston Hughes' "Love Song for Lucinda"?

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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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In the poem "Love Song for Lucinda" what is the rhetorical situation?

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. To understand the rhetorical situation of "Love Song for Lucinda" we need to understand what the speaker of the poem is trying to persuade Lucinda to do, or to understand.

The speaker is trying to persuade Lucinda that love is enchanting, dangerous, and breathtaking, but worth the risk. We can assume that he is in love with her, but she is holding back.

In the first stanza, the speaker likens love to a ripe plum growing on a tree. He says that if Lucinda's tastes love once, she will be enchanted by it forever. He writes:

Taste it once
And the spell of its enchantment
Will never let you be.

However, that is not the end of the story. In the second stanza, the speaker warns Lucinda that love is a flame that will burn her eyes if she looks too hard. He tells Lucinda not to overthink love, and not to examine it too hard, implying she should just jump into it:

Is a bright star
Glowing in far Southern skies.
Look too hard
And its burning flame
Will always hurt your eyes.

In the final stanza, the speaker compares love to the top of a mountain. He warns her not to end up too deeply in love, not "to climb too high," if she wants to keep her breath. However, he also implies that it is good to be breathless.

In holding out love as an enchanting, bright, dangerous, and breathtaking experience, the speaker is attempting to persuade Lucinda to take a risk. We can assume from this that Lucinda is a person attracted to beauty, danger, and adventure. The speaker is saying that love, while dangerous, is exciting.

The speaker uses the positive images of a plum, a bright star, and a mountain top as rhetorical devices to help persuade Lucinda to embrace love.

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