FON American Literature Langston Hughes Guide Questions
1. Discuss the connections between the narrator and his ancestors in The Negro Speaks of Rivers.
2. Comment on Hughes choice of free verse for this poem.
3. What is the connection between rivers that The Negro Speaks of Rivers implies?
4. In The Negro Speaks of Rivers, what is the poetic effect of the repetition of “I,” “I’ve known,” “My soul has grown deep like the rivers”? Does it produce greater emphasis, greater musicality? Does it become tedious?
5. What do you think is the political stance of the speaker in Un-American Investigators?
6. What is the historical background of the poem Un-American Investigators? Learn what you can about the U.S. House of Representatives’ Special Committee on Un-American Activities. How is this background information relevant to an understanding of this poem?
7. How does the speaker characterize the investigators in this poem? How does he use imagery and other techniques to achieve that characterization?
8. In Cross, what do you think has caused the speaker to retract his or her hard feelings about his or her parents?
9. Discuss possible meanings of the title of Cross.
10. Why do you think the speaker regrets having “cursed” his or her father and mother? Is it possible to determine if the speaker is male or female? Why or why not?
11. What informs the speaker’s attitude toward life?
12. Explain the allusion made in the first line of each stanza of Song for a Dark Girl. How is the allusion ironic?
13. What is “the use of prayers” in this poem? Is the question answered? What leads to your conclusion?
14. Discuss the relationship between love and hatred in this poem.