Rhetorical Analysis – Project #1 – Week #4

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    Wei Tao Liu

    Langston Hughes, a famous poet in American literature, especially in black literature. He is an important figure, and he has written many various styles of works include fiction, drama prose, history, and biography. Also, he had translated Spanish and French poetry into English and even edited the anthologies of other black writers in the past. However, he was mainly known for his poetry and was hailed as “the poet laureate of the black race”. One of his most famous poems is The Negro Speaks of River, which is what I choose for my rhetorical analysis because it is an inspiring and meaningful poem.

    The poem was written during the 1900s, where racism still exists often, and it mainly targets the newly liberated blacks during that time period. Hughes tried to speak for blacks at that while and expressed his love for his own race and his proud and dignity for his race. Soon, Hughes wrote the poem, The Negro Speaks of River, which woke the dignity and proud of black peoples and arouse the desire for equal rights for black people.

    Hughes is an African American, and at that time period, his literacy activities were related to the African American movement. His poems play a role in the movement because they are the true and profound reflection of the social life of black Americans by revealing their suffering and bitterness, happiness and hope, and as well as their pursuit and desire for democracy. Negro Speaks of River is one of the major poems he wrote for that time. It didn’t actually emphasize on the reflecting social life of black American like other poems that Hughes wrote, instead, it uses emotion technique to arouse the readers’ emotion, made them become confident and hopeful for their race after that past that they’ve been treated poorly and unfair.

    The background of the poem was during Hughes’ journey to Mexico. He saw the Mississippi river when the train slowly pass through, and the river inspired him, and then he thought about the fate of blacks and thought about President Lincoln floating down the Mississippi River to New Orleans on a raft to abolish slavery, then think about other rivers used by black people in the past, Congo River, Niger River, and the Nile in Africa. Hughes wrote this poem after he saw the river, and make connections between these rivers and the black race. The poem is special because it is not about the suffering and struggles of black people like some other poems wrote by Hughes, it is about the history of black people. It tells the readers that black people is also one of the ancient race and once contributed in the human history. Hughes tried to use this poem to convince other black people to go against racism and fight for their right because he believes even some people may think racist about his race, but he is proud of his race, so he wants this poem to strengthen the confidence of other blacks to participate in the movement.

    Negro Speaks of River, connected black race and several rivers, which symbolically but also vividly expressed the history of the black race. This poem motivated black people and persuade them to be hopeful. At the same time, it wants to show others that they will not give up or surrender despite such discriminations and persecution.

    The message of this poem was to show black pride in their own race. The poem was written during the era of the black poet, 1900s. The vice of racial discrimination hasn’t been eradicated in the United States at that time period. Hughes wrote such a poem at that time, was undoubtedly has a strong appeal to black people. So, they can stand up and work for the equality.

    This poem works by using the river to make the comparison with the long history of black people. It was ingenious to think of specific images that link the history of black people to several ancient rivers. The point of this poem is to express, “My soul has grown deep like the rivers”, which is the first and the last stanza of the poem, meaning even I’ve been discriminated against, persecuted, and yet, the soul is something that no one can destroy. It indirectly calls for struggles for equal treatment and rights, enlightened and inspired black people to “wake up” and enhance their confidence and sense of dignity. This is what seems most crucial to me, this meaning and purpose are appealing and strong.

    Hughes uses the rhetorical appeal of ethos for this poem by expressing the thoughts and feelings of himself and other blacks at that time period. Negro Speaks of River emotionally arouse the desire to be treated equally and having real free rights. It also tells everyone that even they have been suffered from tragic fate in the past, but they still have the sense of human dignity, so they will never surrender or accept unfair treatment. It awakened them and motivated them.

    Negro Speaks of River accomplished the purpose of helping to persuade others to start fighting for their right. The poem itself praise the progress of the black people and gave a positive impact on their literature. It convinces black people to be confident and be proud of their race.

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    • This topic was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by Wei Tao Liu.
    Wei Tao Liu

    <div align=”left”>The Negro Speaks Of Rivers by Langston Hughes</div>
    <div>I’ve known rivers:
    I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
    flow of human blood in human veins.

    My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

    I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
    I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
    I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
    I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
    went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
    bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

    I’ve known rivers:
    Ancient, dusky rivers.

    My soul has grown deep like the rivers.</div>
    <audio style=”display: none;” controls=”controls”></audio>

    Wei Tao Liu

    Hi! This is actually my 1st draft, I accidentally submitted this one instead of the final one. I resubmitted my final draft. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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