Sylvester's Dying Bed

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Louis Ramirez
Sharon Ballentine
English 1302
19 July 2012
Sylvester’s Dying Bed Poetry Essay
Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, social activist, columnist, and a playwright from the Harlem renaissance period that composed several memorable pieces throughout his lifetime. The majority of his work was aimed towards racial consciousness. In the poem Sylvester’s Dying Bed, the main character (Sylvester) is an African American lover, from the same Harlem Renaissance time period that is portrayed to be in a self-assured state of mind that accepts death peacefully because he does not seem to be afraid of death.

The theme of the poem is death; however it is not a dark, lonely, or depressing poem. Sylvester, the main character, translates his “death day” in a calm and composed manner as if it were just another day in the cycle of life. The question is why is Sylvester in this self-assured state of mind? The author, Langston Hughes, gives no direct indication of Sylvester’s state of mind. However, the reader can predict his mind state from the poem’s calm and composed mood and the fact that Sylvester is talking to the reader from beyond the grave. The second to last line, “Then everything was darkness” (Hughes 521) suggest that Sylvester dies at that point in the poem. In the last line, “In a great…big…night” Sylvester is still talking even though he is already dead. Death came but life continues; this is assurance.

From the beginning of the poem Sylvester is in this self-assured state of mind. When he wakes up early in the morning, all the town’s women are gathered around his bed moaning, sad, and crying because Sylvester will soon die. It is safe to assume that it would be illogical for all the towns’ women to be gathered, crying over his impending death, this is not feasible. This suggests that Sylvester is imagining these women gathered around him in the morning and throughout the rest of the poem. This is a...
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