What are the messages in the play "Soul Gone Home?"

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Langston Hughes wrote the one-act play "Soul Gone Home" in 1937.

The messages in the play are mixed. On one hand, the mother clearly loves the son and is genuinely grief-stricken over his death. On the other hand, as he berates her for her negligent behavior, she becomes angry at him for not appreciating her care.

MOTHER: You never was no use to me.
SON: So you just lemme grow up in the street, and I ain't had no manners nor morals, neither.
...
SON: I found out you was a hell of a mama puttin' me out in the cold to sell papers soon as I could even walk.
MOTHER: What? You little liar!
SON: If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'! An lettin' me grow up all bowlegged and stunted from undernourishment.
(Hughes, "Soul Gone Home," Google Books)

Both express dissatisfaction with their lives, the son with the mother's care of him, and the mother with the lack of result from her years of motherhood. One message, from the mother's perspective, is that children should be grateful to their parents for doing all they can; even when it isn't enough, they never mean harm. A message from the son's perspective would be that parents need to put their children's needs first, even at their own expense, because they brought them into the world and are responsible for their lives.

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