Poetry Paper 2 Essay, Research Paper
The Journey Through Life
Langston Hughes poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers presents an African-American man describing his personal experiences and the history of his race. In many of his works, Langston Hughes uses nature in several dimensions to demonstrate the powerful struggles and burdens of human life. The sweeping imagery, poignant metaphors, and precise powerful symbolism demonstrate the struggles the characters confront, and sometimes their eventual freedom from those struggles. The characters eventually learn to find freedom from the confines of society, and freedom within ones soul. The use of tone, symbolism and metaphors for this purpose brings the characters and speakers in Hughes works to life and the reader feels the life and freedom of those characters.
Rivers are a prevalent symbol that represents the speakers connection to his ancestry: I ve known rivers ancient as the world and older tan the flow of human blood in human viens. The river is always changing which in turn symbolizes the changing views on African-Americans in society. The river is also constantly moving and brought the speaker across time to where they are now and intimates that there maybe changes still. Nature, in the works of Hughes serves as a powerful symbol that represents the struggle of the human soul towards freedom, the anguish of that struggle, and the joy when that freedom is finally reached.
The repetition of lines helps set the tone of the poem, which is that of authority. It enables the reader to recognize the weight of authority of contemporary African-Americans. The imagery of the river also helps in creating the tone because the reader [knows] rivers: ancient, dusky rivers. Rivers are usually calm and we can almost feel a sense of serenity. On the other hand, rivers can also be rough and murky, which can set a tone of being bitter and angry, in which African-Americans feel because of all the unjust treatment they have endured for so long.
African-Americans have a come long way since the days of slavery. By using I instead we, the speaker puts history of his own race to his own personal experiences. I is much more intimate and allows the reader to really, in a sense, relate to the speaker, regardless of the readers race. He (the speaker) compares his own soul to the river and experiences to present-day African-American descendants: I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it. I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers by Langston Hughes is a poem that uses metaphors and images of rivers to give the authority of history and experiences of modern African-Americans. The repetition of lines as well as the tone and symbolism all help in showing the freedom of the souls as well as the burden of achieving that freedom and the torturous fight in which they participated in to get where they are today.