What viewpoint does Hughes use in "The Negro Speaks of Rivers"?
Hughes employs a first-person narrator who uses the pronoun "I" to discuss his or her experiences; however, this narrator appears not to be a single person but, rather, a symbol that represents all black people, all over the world, at all times. The narrator represents the entire race, since the beginning of time, "when dawns were young," in the Middle East, where the Euphrates originates. The narrator has been "lulled to sleep" by the Congo River in west-central Africa and helped to build the pyramids near the Nile River in northeastern Africa. The narrator has also lived near the Mississippi in North America during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. He or she has made their home near rivers since the dawn of time, impacting agriculture, economy, and culture in general in any and all possible ways. Hughes suggests that people with black skin have been influencing the world, as the rivers have, since its beginning and that their souls have "grown deep like the rivers" as a result.
"The Negro Speaks of Rivers" is one of Langston Hughes's most famous poems. He uses first-person point of view of a Negro person (it is never stated whether the narrator is male or female) in this poem; but, remember, the poet him/herself and the narrator are not necessarily the same person. Hughes's narrator represents the African race, a timeless, first person perspective through which the narrator is identifying with the rivers of the world and the connection of his race with those rivers. Hughes wants to demonstrate that his people are a vital part of history and that they carry the memories of that history in their souls just as the rivers carry people from other cultures across the world.