In "The Weary Blues," by Langston Hughes, how and why is the final line significant?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The final line of Langston Hughes’s famous poem “The Weary Blues” describes the sleep of the bluesman depicted throughout the rest of the poem:

He slept like a rock or a man that's dead. (35)

This line is relevant to the rest of the poem, and it brings the poem to an appropriate ending in a number of ways, including the following:

  • The opening line of the poem uses the word “drowsy,” thus foreshadowing the last line and contributing to the symmetry of the work.
  • In line 3, and in many other, later lines, the bluesman is depicted as the main source of action and vitality in the poem; thus the final reference to his thorough sleep seems appropriate to a work to which he has lent so much life.
  • Line 4 of the poem uses the word “night,” thus preparing us for the final reference to sleep, and this emphasis on nighttime is reinforced in line 5.
  • In lines 6 and 7, the bluesman is reported to have done a “lazy sway,” with the adjective “lazy” already implying a slowing down of movement in a poem in which all movement will cease at the very end.
  • In line 8, the word “Weary” is used – another example in which the final line, with its emphasis on sleep, is foreshadowed.
  • In line 20, the solitude and loneliness of the bluesman are emphasized, thus foreshadowing his final solitude at the very end of the work, when he sleeps alone.
  • In lines 29-30, the bluesman refers to his unhappiness and says he wishes that he “had died” (30); this latter phrase is obviously relevant to the final line and functions, like so much else in this text, as a foreshadowing of that ending.
  • In line 32, darkness is once again emphasized, as it had been at the beginning of the work, so that the poem achieves once more a kind of symmetry.
  • Line 33 refers to the singer going to bed, thus obviously foreshadowing the final line.

Finally, the last line (already quoted above) seems additionally significant in a number of ways, including the following:

  • It uses a cliché (“slept like a rock”) and thus illustrates the poem’s generally colloquial speech.
  • The final reference to death looks back to line 30, but the bluesman seems “dead” not merely in the sense that he is thoroughly asleep but perhaps also in the sense that his deep sleep is caused, in part, by his deep pain. Deep sleep is one antidote to feelings of loneliness; singing the blues is another. Neither antidote, unfortunately, can erase the pain from which the bluesman clearly suffers.



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The Weary Blues

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