Compare and Contrast the Two Poems The Negro Speaks of Rivers and I Too by Langston Hughes - Term Paper Example

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Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes and his fellow African Americans are – and have been for thousands of years – an integral and vital part of the land in which they inhabit. This epic truth rings true in two of Hughes’ poems, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “I Too.” …
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Compare and Contrast the Two Poems The Negro Speaks of Rivers and I Too by Langston Hughes
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Download file to see previous pages Through “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” and “I Too,” Hughes effectively communicates key experiences, attributes, and emotions that were shared by African Americans during the 1920s. One concept that is common in both is the sense of heritage and belonging. In the former poem, the poet expresses at the end, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers,”, denoting an epiphany of racial consciousness and cultural nationalism. These same concepts are witnessed in the latter work, where its last line reads “I, too, am America,”, telling the reader that the Black poet is every bit as much a full-blooded American as any white man. Hughes also emphasizes skin color in both works, where he describes it as “muddy” in his river poem and calls himself “the darker brother” in the other. In both instances, he uses the dark imagery to symbolize a form of oppression and lowliness, which was eventually overcome. The author also effectively addresses the injustices done to Blacks in each poem. When he talks of the Mississippi by saying “I’ve seen its muddy bosom,” Hughes is documenting the white’s unjust treatment of Blacks before they saw the light through Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that freed them from bondage. Unfair treatment is also signified in “I Too” through the poet’s detention in the kitchen while eating – a debasing burden that he foresees being lifted. The congruities of these poems paint a vivid picture of the inner struggles and victories experienced by Blacks in American history. Hughes’ poems are quite similar in the way they communicate a number of other crucial aspects about the African American experience. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” the poet colorfully depicts the Euphrates, Congo, Nile, and Mississippi rivers as being sources of nourishment and strength for Blacks ? similar to life-giving blood flowing through veins. He likens the waterways to a life source for Blacks, as if they were the roots that anchored and flourished their very souls, building them up to overcome their oppressors (Smith). Similarly, a form of ammunition and strength for Blacks in “I Too” is seen through food from the kitchen – the location of bondage. The food he eats there makes him powerful and confident to break free from shamefully having to eat away from the table. Another crucial theme touched upon in each poem is transformation. When Hughes describes the muddy Mississippi River being changed into a golden hue, this symbolizes Black slaves becoming free men (Onwechekwa 103). A similar transformation takes place in “ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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