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Imagery in African-American poetry

Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and Jean Toomer's "Evening Song" are examined in terms of their imagery.

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Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" deliberately uses water and river symbolism to conjure images of African roots. The "rivers of life" and the overall sense of connection produced by this imagery is extremely important for articulating his themes of racial and ethnic pride. Since rivers provide life, he is paralleling the traditional symbols of time, tradition, and heritage. He urges his people to understand their long history or heritage of racial pride and survival.

Beyond his purposes for racial and ethnic pride, he uses the river imagery also for spiritual purposes. Notice the physical and spiritual qualities associated with "the veins, blood, and the souls" of African people. Just as rivers flow to create unity, his ...

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Langston Hughes' "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and Jean Toomer's "Evening Song" are examined in terms of their imagery.

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