Langston Hughes’ emotional poem about a lynching and the loss of a black girl’s lover uses several examples of metaphors and imagery to get across a message. First, the title is ambiguous in its meaning. “Song for a Dark Girl” sounds as if it is a girl who is lynched in the poem; however, it is just the opposite. The girl’s lover is the one who is hanged and the dark girl (and all dark girls) sing the same song, “Break the heart of me,” for all of the black men who have been lynched. The dark girls are witnesses to the “bruised” and beaten bodies of the black men who are hanged.
In addition, there is religious imagery and symbolism in the poem. The black man is hanged in a tree at a crossroads. This image suggests a crucifixion in nature, and even Jesus can’t answer the prayers of the dark girl. Jesus, in fact, has forsaken the black man and prayers are useless, much like God forsook Jesus at his time of crucifixion. The fact that it is white men who pray to a white Jesus hanging this man is also ironic and shows their lack of faith and love for all people.
Finally, the main metaphor of the poem is “Love is a naked shadow.” Love is being compared to a shadow, something that is fleeting and lacks substance. It also represents the physical shadow of the hanging man as it is cast on the “gnarled and naked tree" from the branch where he is hanging.