Langston Hughes

Does the voice in either of the two poems seem to represent Hughes’s sincere voice? Or are they both rhetorical in some way? Which aspects of the poems seem more sincere and/or rhetorical? Which literary devices does he choose to use in each poem? How? Why?

The voice in the first poem “Mother to Son” seems to represent Hughe’s sincere voice. It’s as if Hughes is the one speaking to the audience and giving his honest advice. In this poem, a mother tells his son that life is not easy. There were times when she was lost and struggled to live, but she kept going. She encourages her son to do the same because if she can, he can do so too. Hughes uses African accent so we can tell it’s the story of an African family who do not live easy lives. Hughes also uses repetition of “And” and keeps the lines short to mimic a sincere voice, making it sound like the poem is speaking to you in real life and in that accent. Hughes also starts and ends with “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”, emphasizing that your life may not be easy but so many other people’s lives are also not easy but they are still thriving.

Although Hughes’ second poem “Motto” includes some sincere voice, it seems to be more rhetorical. In this poem, Hughes says that he stays alive for all the fun that he enjoys in life like singing and dancing to swing music. He uses informal language to express his thoughts, “I play it cool”. In addition, he says “dig” as a slang for “like”. Through his informal language and use of slang, he is able to communicate his feelings or his “motto” in a way that is memorable. In the end, he says “dig and be dug/in return”, meaning if you like others and treat others well, they will like you and treat you well too. Thus, he communicates his message through a poem, in a unique way.

One thought on “Langston Hughes”

  1. I think that it is difficult to tell what Hughes’s sincere voice is because both poems have different themes and vastly different ideas. in my opinion, both these poems are written to show different perspectives of how people live their life. I agree with you that “Mother to Son” is much more formal and sounds more realistic than “Motto”, which uses slang to get his point across. This may be because “Mother to Son” is a mother’s plea for her son to continue through harsh times, whereas “Motto” is a statement of how he prefers to live.

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