Cross by Langston Hughes is a poem that has a lot of themes, but the one I am going to focus on today is cross. The cross represents all types of struggles and crosses in life that we have to go through. In this blog post, I will talk about what cross means for me and how it relates to my life as well as discuss some possible interpretations of cross from other people’s perspectives.
The poem “Cross” by Langston Hughes is a one-stanza poem with a meaningful and complex meaning that perfectly reflects the main idea. The author has utilized the first-person point of view to convey the message to the reader (Bloom 20). This paper will look at the author’s identity as well as the key speech figure and overall theme in “Cross.” In this essay, I’ll analyze ” Cross” by Langston Hughes.
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This poem’s persona is a young black man who has been brought up in a white family. He was born by a white father and a black mother, so he is full of rage because he grew up in a bicultural environment with two diverse races. Despite later regretting his parents for having had him in different racial communities, the rage of the protagonist appears to be strongly influenced by issues concerning race (Bloom 20).
Use of Metaphor
The poem’s title (the cross) has a significant and profound meaning. The significance of this name reflects the author’s primary idea. There are numerous interpretations that may be given to the term “cross” as the title. The persona is dissatisfied and angry because his heritage is divided between two ends, as the analysis of “Cross” demonstrates. He vents his fury towards his parents at first, but later regrets it. Cross has been used metaphorically to represent this rage and dissatisfaction.
The persona’s mixed heritage has placed him in a delicate situation that may be characterized as a burden. The cross is used to underscore the hardship of this situation, which may be compared to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who was tested without having committed any wrongdoings. Similarly, even though it isn’t his fault, the persona is suffering because to being brought up in a composite culture.
In conclusion, the persona changes from being angry and hurtful to being sympathetic and forgiving. This metamorphosis completely gives the term “cross” a new meaning. Finally, the persona is torn between two possible fates following over and forgiving his parents. He wonders whether he will die as a bi-racial individual. In other words, he is left in a crossroads (Juhasz 56). As a result, one can understand the significance of “Cross” by Langston Hughes.
The Overall Theme
The poem is generally concerned with racial heritage issues. The speaker is extremely irritated because he was born in a mixed background, with a black mother and white father. Indeed, the speaker is filled on account of belonging to a diverse society and expresses sorrow and annoyance over his parents’ responsibility for the so-called bad fate.
The persona’s profound feelings reflect the value of racial ancestry, as well as some degree of disconnection between black and white individuals. Perhaps the persona was formed during the era of slavery in America, when Africans were being enslaved. As a result, Hughes’ “Cross” focuses on the protagonist’s inner conflict over his bi-racial background.
The animosity that the persona expresses is driven by feelings of slavery. Also, the persona is said to have stated that his father died a wealthy man while his mother died a pauper, perhaps implying how the white used the black to profit themselves. In other words, prejudice against one race versus another must have fueled the character’s contempt for anyone with an amalgamated background (Bennett 16)
I’ve already mentioned the anther’s use of metaphor, which has caught my attention and urged me to critically examine the themes being discussed in the poem. As a result, I was able to understand the themes in a more profound and precise manner. The figure of speech has compelled me to empathize with the speaker who is going through great distress, as I imagined his circumstances. Overall, as demonstrated by Langston Hughes’ analysis of “Cross,” the author has utilized the speaker to deliver his important message to the reader (Bennett 16).
The poem discusses Hughes’ background and self-identity as a person of mixed race, with a white father and a black mother. He employs both literal and implied definitions of words to express how he feels about it. When he says that “My old man’s a white old man” and “And my old mother’s black,” he is simply stating his parents’ identities. The words “white” and “black,” along with their literal meanings, are used by Hughes to describe his parents. Cross has more than one meaning and expresses many ideas in the title.
Because he uses the word “white” and its variants three times, while “black” appears only once, we may infer that he is half white/half black. The title indicates that he is biracial, being both black and white. It also depicts the idea that he is attempting to communicate. “Cross can also be associated with Jesus, and his burden of carrying it with him. Hughes goes about talking about his background as if it were a weight. He has no idea how to identify himself, as demonstrated by the line “I wonder where I’m going to die, being neither white nor black.” He doubts not just his race but also his social position.
When he says, for example, that “My old man died in a fine home,” and “My mother died in a shack,” he is implying that his father died rich and his mother died poor. They were most likely not buried at those locations, but the mood of each place reflects the social position of both families. His use of connotations “blessing” and “curse,” as well as his sentiments regarding each parent, aids in establishing a narrative flow for the reader while also conveying the sense that he has strong feelings about each parent.
He used the term “curse” against his father, implying that if he curses, he will get a bad outcome. The phrase “wish” indicated his desire for her fate with his mother. The poet is at a loss for words when it comes to describing himself, and he wishes to lay the blame on his parents but ultimately understands that he can’t because it isn’t their fault that he is who he is.
Langston Hughes’ poem “Cross” sensationalizes the conflict of being biracial, especially in the mid-nineteenth century. This poem depicts Hughes’s ethnic roots and growing up biracial in a period and nation that predominantly sees black people and white people. Hughes is expressing his displeasure at being of both high contrasts but unable to obtain an honorable position in either race or be recognized by neither racial group.
This theory emerged as a result of the fact that they felt deceived, particularly given his half-white heritage. On the basis that he was half African American and did not consider himself a genuine white man, whites still looked down on him. He doesn’t know where he’ll end up due to his mixed/ (biracial) not of completely one race status.
So, in his perplexity, he wonders how he will end up. He may be wealthy like his father or poor like his mother. He is undecided whether he will die of a disease or a bullet wound. A recognized white or a disregarded dark, according to popular belief. When he grew up, he realized that something was wrong with him.
Interracial marriages are not immoral. How times have changed since Langston Hughes wrote poetry! My niece, who is half white (my sister) and half African and Native American, is a mix. I noticed that mixed babies, kids, and adults give spice to America because it is the world’s melting pot after all. “Cross” is a cleverly written poem with strong meaning for both then and now.
I didn’t know the poem’s goal at first, but after further study, I discovered that Hughes was talking about his childhood perplexity over being an interracial kid. Interracial relationships are no longer unusual; they are now simply a part of the social norm.
During this time, Hughes is recalling a period when he was bad-tempered with his father, but now he’s at an age where he’s allowing the past to rest. He reflects on “If ever I cursed my white old man and took back my curses” (Lines 3-4). This young man was angry with his mother for sleeping with the plantation owner; nevertheless, he apologized as well. Being half black and half white made this young man’s life more difficult in the early nineteenth century.
The struggle for racial equality was still in its early stages, and it was extremely tough for Negros to make a name for themselves. “Cross” was composed as a letter of apology to his white father and black mother. Hughes felt it was time to forgive his parents for the life they had given him, given that he had no control over it. The fact that everyone is equal in the nineteenth century went against what many people thought at the time. There’s nothing wrong with mixing race together; there’s simply no need.
Langston Hughes was a significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance, which was a milestone in black history. He was able to convey his ideas on politics and inequality that afflicted the African American community through his art. He became an extremely successful writer, publishing sixteen poetry volumes, as well as works in several other genres.
Hughes’s writings concentrated on the challenges faced by African Americans in the United States. His poem “Mother to Son,” in which the theme is a mother describing life’s difficulties to her son, is one of his most well-known works: “Life for me hasn’t been any crystal stair. It has tacks in it, as well as splinters and boards torn up and places with no carpet on the floor – bare.” The image of stairs is used by Langston Hughes in this poem.
He had a number of occupations before becoming a professional writer. He lived among average people and experienced difficulties first hand during his lifetime. Hughes utilized his creative ability as an outlet for his own thoughts and feelings. In Langston Hughes’s poem “Cross,” the author expresses regret about swearing at their father: “I take my curses back if ever I cursed my white old man.”
“I’m sorry for that bad wish, and now I want her well.” In the south, it was not unusual for white men to father covert children with black women. Sometimes, the woman would receive money from the man for the kid, but this poem shows that although he had a lot of money, his mother was not assisted: “My old man died in a huge home. My mother died in a shack.”
In the 1920s, when Caucasians and African Americans were segregated, Langston Hughes wrote “Cross,” a poem about race. The speaker in the poem is both white and black, which makes him irritable as to which race he can identify with. He understands that he cannot lay the blame for his own identity on his parents. The phrase “cross” has many meanings in “Cross,” including references to the speaker’s hybrid ethnic background. To begin with, one meaning of the name “Cross” is a meeting place between being white and black (or brown).
A crossroad is a location where a person must choose one direction or the other. The speaker is on the crossroads, trying to determine which world he will depart from: “His father was an old man / and his old mother was black” (Hughes). The speaker is uncertain of his origins. This leads to him being furious with his parents.
The word “cross” has a different meaning in this poem. It means furious, according to Hughes. “My old man is white and my old mother is black. If I ever cursed my white old man, I take my insults back. If I ever cursed my black old mother and wished she were in hell.” His parents annoyed him because he was half-black and half-white. There was a lot of segregation at the time, so he didn’t know where he belonged. He might be enraged for example, because during the 1920s there was segregation throughout the United States .
Warren was an outsider to begin with, so I’m not too surprised he didn’t know where to sit on the bus or which water fountain to utilize. Warren’s reactions of him being mixed elicited rage in other people. The idea that his father was white and his mother was a shack might imply that his father raped his mother (Hughes). This could indicate that his father raped his mother. His father was a slave owner, while his mother was a slave. White slave owners took authority over their black female slaves frequently, resulting in mongrel children. It’s possible that this sparked fury against parents for making him what he is today.
The speaker is left with a cross to bear considering that he is angry with his parents and has no idea where he fits in. It’s a burden since, as Hughes puts it, “I wonder where I’m going to die, being neither white nor black.” The speaker implies that he does not know which world to live in between white and black. This may also be a burden since the speaker feels compelled to pick a side. Comparison Jesus Christ, who the speaker knows was both white and black while Jesus knew he was human and divine.
The simple and colloquial language in Langston Hughes’s “Cross” such as “old man” (1), “ma” (10), and “gonna” (11) is appropriate to the speaker’s straightforward discourse about the difficulties faced by a biracial youth born into slavery. This dialect effectively portrays the speaker’s wise, yet basic view of the problems he is facing as a biracial child born into slavery. This informal dialect serves to transport the reader to a location and time corresponding to the poem’s theme.
In this short yet potent poem, Langston Hughes deftly introduces us to three important characters. The first person we meet is a young, perplexed, and irate speaker. This youngster is seen as “Neither white nor black” (Hughes 12). The weight of this simple yet essential phrase may easily be overlooked by the casual reader. Hughes employs it to effectively show how this biracial teenager feels trapped in two worlds.
“Cross,” by American poet Langston Hughes (1902–1967), is a short poem about the difficulties of living as a biracial person in a racist society. The speaker, who was born to a white father and black mother, has deep anxiety about life due to his multiracial background.
“Being neither white nor black,” the speaker wonders what life has in store for her and tries to negotiate the complexities of biracial identity in a prejudiced society, according to First published in 1926 as “Cross” during the Harlem Renaissance artistic period, it is a criticism of racism and a moving tribute to multiracial existence.
The speaker, who was born to a white father and a Black mother, states that if they’ve ever criticized their white father in the past, they apologize. nThe speaker regrets having said negative things about her Black mother now and regards her kindly. The speaker’s father perished in a large, pleasant house; his mother died in a modest, run-down cottage. Being biracial, the speaker wonders what sort of situation they’ll be buried in.
Racism and Biracial Identity
- “Cross” explores the difficulties of being a mixed-race person in a racist society. The speaker, who was born to a white father and Black mother, has previously expressed hatred for both parents—hatred that came from the struggle to be biracial. Now, the speaker detests his or her own anger, acknowledging that the racism they’ve faced isn’t due to their family’s negligence.
- “I’m not white, nor am I black,” the speaker confesses. “There is no place for me in my father’s or my mother’s world since I don’t belong to either of them. Racism makes life difficult and unpredictable for individuals who do not fall into a simple (and ultimately reductive) racial category.”
- The speaker’s fury at their parents reflects the pressures of being biracial in a culture that discriminates based on rigid racial categories. According to the poem, this speaker would have struggled to belong anywhere in such a society; race would have been an ongoing source of tension and perplexity.
- The speaker was furious at their parents for not allowing them to claim a fully white or black identity: simply because the pair had a kid, their life has been tough! However, the speaker also “return[s] my curses” and is “sorry” for past “evil wishes,” perhaps as a result of the speaker’s present awareness that his or her parents must have faced similar prejudice pressures.
- According to the speaker, the pair died in separate homes, suggesting that they either divorced or were never allowed to be together. Once again, these facts suggest the agony and difficulty of multiracial relationships in a prejudiced society.
- The speaker sees how the world treated their parents differently, and he or she wonders how a biracial individual can fit into an intolerant society. The speaker’s father died in “a magnificent big home,” while his mother died in “a shack.” These details demonstrate the great disparity between white and black people in the speaker’s environment, but they also illustrate how being white or Black but not both determines one’s fate.
- Unlike the parents, the speaker is “neither white nor black,” implying that his or her future is extremely unpredictable. The speaker may end up like the “old man” and die in a large house, or like the “ma” and die in “a shack”—or anywhere in between! This uncertainty is clearly causing the speaker discomfort and difficulty.
- The speaker cannot make complete peace with being biracial since the ever-present uncertainty it produces prevents him/her from doing so. The poem critiques a callously reductionist and racist society that only sees in black and white by depicting one biracial person’s battle.