Hum 312 9:30
“Sonnet To A Negro In Harlem”
Helene Johnsons is the speaker in this sonnet and describes her subject in two
opposing views. The first line starts with You are disdainful and magnificent-- implying
that the negro race may be a bit disrespectful to their homeland by living this new life
possibly in a magnificent manner, clever in the way they have been able to adapt and fit in
to the new Harlem city life.
The writer is neither speaking of a man or woman, it seems she may actually be
speaking of a nation of people, specifically the negro race living in Harlem during a
certain era referenced in line 2, your perfect body and your pompous gate, “body” may be
the key to whom she is speaking of meaning a group.
Line 3, your dark eyes flashing solemnly with hate; the Negro race still feels
hatred toward their oppressor but tries hard to cover up those feelings although the hate is
still seen in the eyes of the people.
Lines 4 and 5, small wonder that you are incompetent to imitate those whom you
so despise-- the negro race is only incompetent in this new land, black people now live in
an era where they are forced to act differently by fitting in with the white race, which are
the people who put them in this position initially. The negro race is now surviving this
new lifestyle and have to compromise their way of life.
Line 6, your shoulders towering high above the throng, maybe with such a heavy
load to bear the Negro race walks with their shoulders high in the midst of everyone, not wanting to expose the burden on life in Harlem. The true feelings are too much to handle,
its easier to walk with your head up and pretend that everything is fine.
Line 7, your head thrown back in rich barbaric song may be reference to a native
land, “barbaric song”, a language once spoken in a different...
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