Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 606
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

All through Langston hues’ poem, “The Negro speaks of Rivers” the theme of origin is very outstanding and it gives the poem it final meaning.  It the word “root” in the poem is a clear indication of the fact that Langston hues speak of origin or the “roots” which clearly gives the poem a historical perspective.  The texts used in the poem indicate very strong imagery connected to rivers, veins, and the roots of trees. All these give the poem a sense of timelessness likened to the objects.  Hues is further able to use linguistic images to present historical a familial sense thorough the presentation of the “roots.”

The use of symbols and image gives the reader a clear understanding of the poem. It is clear that what Hughes is talking about is more than rivers, and human veins. He is talking about the entire African American history since it has flourished around rivers which are the source so of human life and allowed human veins and strong historical roots (Smith).

The third section of poem narrated in the first person perspective clearly illustrated the historical roots of the Africans.  It is impossible for an individual to live in many places and in varying time periods at the same time. In this sense it can be said that the use “I” in the poem does refer to an individual but rather, it refers to thousands of voices both from the past and present. For instance, when Hughes says, “I bathed in the Euphrates when the dawns were young” and “I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep,” he is drawing attention to the ancient rivers considered as the “roots” of humanity, civilization and others.  This adds to the poems historical perspective. Hughes continues with the rivers theme when he talks of looking along the Nile and giving the details of what her saw, and hearing the singing along the Mississippi and the in New Orleans (Smith). Certainly the persona is talking of locations that have a great significance to the African and African Americans history. The reference to Mississippi and singing refers to the joy in the African American community when Abraham Lincoln deciphered the evil of slavery and decided to rid the activity of the American soil. 

Hughes seems to equate these rivers to survival.  Like veins and roots, the rivers supply nutrients which are extremely necessary for survival and growth. All these rivers are based on the theme of roots.  The rivers, all being in different locations are like different trees with autonomous systems of roots that support and give life.  In conjunction wit this notion is the fact the roots of the history of the Africans and African Americans are not only entwined in the people or in the overarching soul of a group of people, but rather, they are also in souls that have grown deep in a way similar to the rivers and have also been around for thousands of years (Moore).

Hughes also says, “I have known know rivers, ancient, dusky rivers,” referring the origin or knowledge. Trees have been associated with knowledge since the biblical times, and thus the theme of roots evokes the historical origin of knowledge. Like nutrient transferred through roots and veins, the omniscient cultural knowledge and identity has been transferred through generations and withstood the taste of time the same way these rivers have been around (Moore).  

The poem is certainly a summary of numerous significant events in the history of Africans and African Americans. They include early civilization, knowledge, and liberation. It represents the different generations of African and African American in their entirety. 

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