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Symbolism In Langston Hughes

’ “On The Way Home” Essay, Research Paper Although race is a constant theme in Langston Hughes’s writings, critics note his ability to write about essentially racial themes while delineating the

’ “On The Way Home” Essay, Research Paper

Although race is a constant theme in Langston Hughes’s writings, critics

note his ability to write about essentially racial themes while delineating the

personal circumstances of each main character(Votteler 108). In “On the Way

Home,” Hughes relates a mans grief over the death of his mother without

specifying the race of the characters(Votteler 108). A close critique of the story

proves to be interesting. I will analyze “On the Way Home,” by Langston

Hughes, in terms of symbols, characters, and conflicts.

First I will analyze ?On the Way Home? in terms of symbols. For example,

there is a symbol which appears throughout the story, the color yellow. When I

relate the color yellow to everyday life, I find that it means be careful, caution, or

slow down. The symbol in the story was related to the same way. This symbol

was a bottle of yellow wine. Remember, ?Carl was not what you would call a

drinking man?(Hughes 169). Carl purchased a bottle of wine after he receive

the telegram from the Rossiters about his mother?s illness. He knew that his

mother may die. The bottle of wine was used as a false security of comfort for

his grief over his mother. Carl promised his mother not to drink at all(Hughes

169). Carl knew that he should not drink but he decided to do it anyway. Carl’s

mother had always stressed to him not to drink. In the opening of the story, it

was said that Carl?s father was a drunkard. Another symbols is Carl?s mother. In

the story, she represented a sense of security to Carl. ?She had raised him[Carl]

with almost too much kindness(Hughes 169). The third symbol was a bath of

warm water. The following passage from the story proves my point:

?The water in the tub was warm like the wine. He felt good[sitting in the

tub] remembering a dark grassy slope in a corner of his mother?s

yard…?(Hughes 172).

Carl uses this as a security blanket to cover his guilt about drinking and his

mother illness(Emanuel 133). The bath was a symbol of cleanliness to wash

away all of his problems. His bath and drinking backfired and he ended up

missing his bus home. Carl really needed to slowdown and think about what he

was doing.

Next I will analyze ?On the Way Home?, by Langston Hughes in terms of

the characters. For example, the main character in “On the Way Home” is Carl

Anderson. ?Carl is an office worker who has moved to Chicago from is home

town of Sommerville. Lonely, sexually repressed, and something of a mama’s

boy, he returns home once a month to enjoy the old-fashioned pleasures of

popcorn and cider with his mother?(Hughes 133). Carl, being away from home,

looked forward to a new era of independence. He ?wants to grow and resist

growth at the same time?(Hughes 133). Another character is Carl?s mother. In

the story she is gravely ill, on her death bed. It is implied that she was a bit over

protective of Carl, even in his adulthood. She instilled moral and values in Carl

as indicated in this passage:

?Be sweet Carl. Be a good boy. Keep clean. Mother loves you. Be

sweet- and remember what you?re taught at home?(Hughes 173).

The last character was a bar room lady, possibly a hooker. After Carl realizes

that he missed he bus home. He decides to go into a bar a drink some more.

He orders a drink and a lady wishes to join him. She tries to pick Carl up to go

home with her as he orders a drink. Carl is drunk and confused during their

conversation. This passage proves the point:

?I?ll have to take you home to my house[said by the bar room lady], little

boy.?…. ?Home?? Carl said. ?Home…Home…I Home?…[then he wept like a

kid](Hughes 176).

She knew that something was troubling Carl. She offers to get him home.

Last I will analyze ?On the Way Home? by Langston Hughes in terms of

conflicts. For example, the conflict in this story is the indivisibility of freedom

and responsibility. Carl looks forward avidly to the new era of sexual freedom

that his mother’s death will make possible. But he is not prepared to give up the

security his mother provided. James Emanuel, a critic of short stories, perceives

the story as a myth of rebirth and renewal:

“It is a story… of a man whom death brings painfully into the world a

second time, in a rebirth made necessary by a superfluity of maternal

love”(Emanuel 133).

Another point is in Emanuel’s interview with Hughes, Hughes stated:

“I’ve known two of three people who in the presence of death go to pieces

in a drunken way and think they’re having a good time”(Votteler 133). So

basically from those remarks made, Carl is barred from manhood by his childish

emotions. He is substituting one form of a dependency for another[quote of

James Emanual](Votteler 133).

I have analyze “On the Way Home” in terms of symbols, characters, and

conflicts. Although Hughes did not share the popular appeal of the more militant

writers who began to emerge in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, critics commonly

agree that Hughes holds a prominent place in American literature and among

writers of short fiction. Arthur P. Davis stated: “His short stories from a world of

fiction built with truth and a special love- a little civilization shaped high purpose

and steadfast integrity”(Davis 108).

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