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The Frustration Of History

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Autor:   •  March 23, 2011  •  515 Words (3 Pages)  •  734 Views

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In this paper I will discuss Langston Hughes poem “ The Negro Speaks of Rivers” as a metaphor for African American History. Langston Hughes became the central figure of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920’s. This poem happens to be the most easily understood; unlike most of his poems. It seems as though Langston Hughes attempted to shed light on and trace African American’s history by use of the word “river.” But on the other hand this poem can also be interpreted as having compassion and love for all races. I will make an effort to explore both views.

Mr. Hughes uses the word river as a metaphor for history or historical events. It’s as though the river is symbolic or parallel to the presence of African American historical life experiences. The poem speaks of the ancient history, the Euphrates, the Congo, the Nile, and even the Pyramids. Suggesting African Americans throughout history has been fighting all the way through their history. In contrast, Hughes repeats “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.” This can be interpreted as his soul being the life force of his body and his soul recognizes his true identity. The river sort of represent the connection of mankind. The river flows like blood, and we are all linked by blood as children of God.

The poem gives an historical perspective of the bringing of man through slavery. The mysterious change of the Mississippi from mud to gold by the sun’s warmth is mirrored in the transformation of slaves into free men by Lincoln’s Proclamation. Mentioning Abraham Lincoln indicates the abolishment of slavery and how they overcame once again.

On the other hand, the river indicates the connection of all human life from the earliest time to the present. The naming of the rivers can represent the history of Western culture. Form the


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