English 1302 Poetry Analysis

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Page 957, Countee Cullen, "Yet Do I Marvel"
1. What is the significance and effect of the allusions to classical literature/myth in general? To these myths in particular? How do they individually and collectively help characterize the speaker’s situation? Through the use of metaphor and allusion, Cullen allows the readers to put themselves in his shoes. Through his poetry, the reader is presented with the struggle and the underlying true message- the harshness and cruelty towards the African Americans- the reality of racism.

2. Does the speaker’s attitude toward God or our sense of that attitude shift or change over the course of the poem? If so, how so? Where does he (and/or do we) end up?

The first twelve lines of the sonnet portray the paradoxical nature of a "good and kind God." Cullen remarks that if God were really good and kind then why did he create the mole as a blind animal? Why should we all die?  Why do our best efforts often end in frustration and failure and unhappiness? Cullen answers these rhetorical questions by stating that God's ways are mysterious and can never be fully understood by ordinary human beings. The final couplet, however, reveals his anger and frustration at the plight of talented and sensitive black poets like him who are suppressed and oppressed by the white majority, making him to doubt god's goodness and kindness.

Page 959, Langston Hughes, “Harlem”
1. According to this poem, is there an answer to the question asked in the first line: “What happens to a dream deferred?” Yes, there is an answer; the question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” appears to be answered with nothing but more questions. But if we analyze each question we get an idea of what the speaker really believes about dreams being postponed. The “dream” is a goal in life, not just dreams experienced during sleep. The dream is important to the dreamer’s life. Nevertheless, the speaker’s position is clear that any important dream or goal that must be delayed can have serious negative affects.

2. This poem was written in 1951, approximately twenty years after the end of the Harlem Renaissance. It is the only poem in this chapter on the Harlem Renaissance that was written years after its end. How is the content of the poem possibly related to Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance within a post-Renaissance perspective? In 1951, frustration characterized the mood of American blacks. The Civil War in the previous century had liberated them from slavery, and federal laws had granted them the right to vote, the right to own property, and so on. However, continuing prejudice against blacks, as well as laws passed since the Civil War, relegated them to second-class citizenship. Consequently, blacks had to attend poorly equipped segregated schools and settle for menial jobs as porters, ditch-diggers, servants, shoeshine boys, and so on. In many states, blacks could not use the same public facilities as whites, including restrooms, restaurants, theaters, and parks. Access to other facilities, such as buses, required them to take a back seat, literally, to whites. By the mid-Twentieth Century, their frustration with inferior status became a powder keg, and the fuse was burning. Hughes well understood what the future held, as he indicates in the last line of the poem.  

Pages 959-960, Langston Hughes, "The Weary Blues"

1. Who is the narrator of this poem? Is the narrator different from the piano player in the poem? Is there a difference in the style of the poem as it shifts between the voice of the narrator and the voice of the singer? The singer and song become united in the same way that the speaker of the poem becomes not only a first-person narrator, but a third-person omniscient storyteller. The central narrative voice describes an African American in Harlem, who is observed singing and playing the blues.

2. Are there any clues in the poem about the life of the singer? Why might the singer have...
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