The persona in this poem is reflecting on the perfection of the city. He believes that there is nothing on Earth so beautiful as the city in the morning. Only a dull person would not appreciate such a majestic sight. He is awed by the calm of the city.
The persona compares the manner in which the beauty of the morning settles over the city, to that of a garment on a body. This emphasizes the perfection of the beauty of the morning, just as a garment flows smoothly over a body.
Lines 9-10: The sun is referred to as a male who rises sharply and beautifully. This emphasizes the beauty of the city in the morning. The use of this personification also helps the reader to personalize this beauty.
Line 12: Like the sun, the river is personalized as well. This allows the reader to see the river as real, instead of a thing. It comes alive and we can visualize it’s movement, gliding, as beautiful.
Line 13: When some-one is asleep, they are usually peaceful. Therefore, when the persona describes the houses as sleeping, he is emphasizing the peace that exists in the city in the morning. The inhabitants of the houses are asleep, therefore the houses are quiet and peaceful.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
The word fair, in this context, literally means beautiful. The persona is setting the stage for the reader, introducing the fact that the city is beautiful.
This word implies that the city is regal in it’s splendour. Therefore, it is beyond beautiful and has become stately.
This word describes the way in which the sun ascends into the sky. It is stressed that it does so in a beautiful manner.
The mood of the poem is pensive, or thoughtful. The persona is expressing his thoughts, and reaction to, the city in the morning.
The persona is travelling in a plane, looking down at San Juan, Puerto Rico, as the plane descends. He is saying that this island is the wealthiest in the Caribbean because it has won the jackpot, it has come up lucky. He then points out that he, and others, had travelled to many Caribbean islands and received a hint of the flavour of each island through it’s calling card, – its airport – all of which fail when compared to plush San Juan. As they land, they are instructed to stay on the plane if their destination is not San Juan. The persona takes offence and states that America does not want blacks in San Juan, implying that they might be a disruptive force. He notes the efficiency with which things flow, enabling them to take to the skies once more. During the ascent, the persona notes the contrast between the influences of the Caribbean and America. He likens San-Juan to a broken TV, it looks good on the outside, but broken on the inside.
Line 2: Puerto Rico is compared to dice that is tossed on a casino’s baize, it can either come up with winning numbers, or losing numbers. Puerto Rico comes up with winning numbers in the game of chance, as reflected in its wealthy exterior, which is supported by America.
Lines 7-8: San Juan’s glitter is compared to a maverick’s gold ring. The word maverick implies non-conformist, an individualist. This implies that San Juan, Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean, but not a part of the Caribbean. It belongs to America.
Lines 10-11: Airports are compared to calling cards. This means that, like a calling card, the quality of the airport gives you an idea of the island’s economic status. The airport is also compared to a cultural fingerprint. A fingerprint is an individual thing, therefore the airport gives the traveler an idea of the island’s cultural landscape.
Line 39: The road is compared to twisted wires. This means that the roads, from above, look both plentiful and curvy. This does not carry a positive connotation, but implies confusion.
Line 5: Dallas is an oil rich state in America. Therefore, many of its inhabitants are wealthy, and the state itself, is wealthy. By stating that San Juan is the Dallas of the West Indies, it implies that it is a wealthy island in the West Indies.
Lines 5-7: An allusion is being made to the well known cliche; ‘every cloud has a silver lining’. It means that behind everything that is seemingly bad, there is good. In the context of this poem, it means that the good, the silver lining, has a mark, or stamp, that authenticates its good quality; it is hallmarked. This implies that it will always have its silver lining showing.
Line 20: This statement means the exact opposite of what is stated. The persona is disgusted that Uncle Sam (America) would have such a regulation. This regulation bars anyone from stepping a toe on Puerto Rican soil, if it is not your intended destination. You just have to remain in the air craft, no matter the waiting period, until it is time for takeoff. The persona believes that the Americans are being blatantly discriminatory, and are attempting to camouflage it through the use of regulations. He does not believe that they have achieved their goal of subtlety.
Line 20: The statement, ‘give me your poor…’ is particularly sarcastic because it is a direct quote from the New Collossus, which rests on a plaque on the statue of liberty, and signifies that the disenfranchised of the world are welcome. The persona, as a member of the ‘disenfranchised’ masses, clearly feels unwelcomed.
Line 26: The persona implies that America is all talk and no action. They really do not want the poor because they bar them from entering and expediently sends them on their way when they enter their airport. The statement is sarcastic because it is loaded with an alternate meaning, due to the contrast in statement and action.
Line 17-18: The pun is placed on ‘land of the free’, it becomes ‘Island of the free’. This pun emphasizes how isolated Puerto Rico is from the rest of the Caribbean islands. It belongs to the U.S.A. This state of belonging to, or being owned by the US is asserted through it’s insertion into the Star Spangled Banner.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
This word implies soft, like a teddy bear. It also implies luxury. So San Juan is all of these things.
6.’desperate blacks might re-enslave this Island of the free’
These ‘desperate blacks’ to whom the persona is referring are the poor people of the Caribbean. If they converge on the glistening San Juan, sucking up its resources, then it might become re-enslaved by poverty.
7.’America’s back yard’
A backyard means one of two things for people. It is a haven where you relax, therefore you decorate it and invest time and money in it. Or, you ignore it and spend all your time indoors, not investing any time, energy or money in it. America viewed Puerto Rico as the latter, a prize in which it saw value. Therefore, when the persona uses this phrase, he is implying that while it is valued, it is still at the back. Slight sarcasm is being used here.
8.’the contrasts tantalise’
When something, or someone, is tantalising, it implies that it is intriguing. The persona, by using this phrase, is trying to draw the readers attention to to the jarring contrasts by stating that he finds them intriguing.
The word fierce, used to describe the level of efficiency with which the people worked to get the plane off the ground, shows the extent to which they were not wanted on the island.
This implies that the flashiness of San Juan was not authentic.
11.’It’s sharp and jagged and dangerous, and belonged to some-one else.’
This implies that San Juan is not safe. The cultures are not melding, but jarring against each other. The reason for this is because it belongs to someone else.
The contrast in this poem is found in stanza 5. The American cars etc, against the pushcarts. The American culture versus the Puerto Rican culture.
The mood of the poem is sarcastic.
The tone of the poem is slightly bitter, which is fueled by the sarcastic atmosphere.
A parent is talking to his/her’s son and telling him how things used to be. The parent tells the son that people used to be sincere, but are now superficial and seek only to take from others. The persona tells the child that he/she has learnt to be just like these people, but does not want to be like that anymore. The parent wants to be as sincere as the son.
The people’s eyes are as cold as ice. This means that there is no warmth or real feeling in the words that they say, or how they behave. This metaphor literally allows you to visualize a block of ice, cold and unwelcoming.
Stanza 4, lines 20-21 emphasizes the constant changes in the persona’s face. If you think of how often a woman changes her dress, then that is how often the persona adjusts his/her’s personality to suit an audience. The list of faces that follow this line emphasizes this point.
Stanza 4, lines 23-24 compares people’s faces to smiles in a portrait. If you think about a portrait, it is usually very formal and stiff, even uncomfortable. Therefore, the implication is that the smiles are actually fake and stiff. They are conforming, or trying to fit, to a preconceived mold that is set up by societal expectations.
Stanza 6, lines 38-40 compares the persona’s laugh to a snakes. When you think of a snake, words such as sneaky and deceitful come to mind. Therefore, the implication is that the persona is fake, just like the people he/she despises.
This phrase is repeated at the beginning and the end of the poem. This usually signals the beginning of a fairy tale. Therefore, it is implied that the persona is nostalgic about the past.
IMPORTANT WORDS/ PHRASES
4.’they only laugh with their teeth’
This emphasizes the insincerity of the people around the persona. To laugh with your teeth means that only the bottom half of your face is engaged, the laugh does not reach the eyes.
‘shake hands with their heart’
To shake hands with your heart implies a strong handshake that is sincere, this is the opposite of what now occurs between people.
‘search behind my shadow’
This implies that the person cannot look the persona in the eye, they are looking everywhere but there. Looking someone in the eye during a conversation implies that one is sincerely interested in what you have to say. Not being able to do so implies shiftiness.
‘hands search my empty pockets’
People are only ‘seemingly’ nice to get something from you. So, they smile with you, but it is not sincere, they are seeking to get something from you.
‘unlearn all these muting things’
The word mute means silence, think of what happens when you press the mute button on the TV remote. Therefore, there is an implication that the insincere actions that the persona describes are muting, they block, or silence, good intentions. Hence, the persona wants to ‘unlearn’ these habits.
The mood of the poem is nostalgic. The persona is remembering how things used to be when he was young and innocent, like his son.
The tone of the poem is sad. The poet’s response to his nostalgia is sadness.
Loss of innocence,
Appearance vs reality
* It is IRONIC that the persona is behaving in the exact way that he/she despises. There is an implication that things cannot go back to what he remembers, due to the influence of societal expectations.
Berry is about a young black man called Millberry Jones who is employed at Dr. Renfield’s Home for Crippled Children. He was reluctantly employed by Mrs. Osborn, the housekeeper, because the Scandinavian kitchen boy had left without notice, leaving her no choice in hiring Berry. Her reluctance to hire Berry stemmed from his race, which initiated questions such as where he would sleep, as well as how the other employees would react to the presence of a Negro. She had a meeting with Dr. Renfield and they decided to hire Millberry on a reduced salary. He was overworked and underpaid, but took solace in the children whom he loved. An unfortunate incident occurred, however, where a child fell from his wheelchair while in the care of Berry. The result was that Berry was fired and given no salary for the week that he had worked.
CHARACTERS Millbury Jones (Berry)
A Black male, approximately 20 years old. Described as good natured and strong. Poor and uneducated. Very observant and intuitive about people and places. Very good with children due to his gentleness.
The housekeeper at the children’s home. Rumoured to be in love with Dr. Renfield. Very high handed with her staff, but docile with Dr. Renfield. Displays racist characteristics in subtle forms.
Rumoured to have romantic affairs with his female staff.
Berry observes that the Home is ‘Doc Renfield’s own private gyp game’ (Hughes, p. 162), meaning that he runs his establishment for his own profit, instead of a desire to take genuine care of the children. He is blatantly racist.
This theme is apparent when Berry was being considered for employment at the Home. Mrs. Osborn was concerned about where Berry would sleep, implying that he could not sleep with the white servants because he was considered to be beneath them. His salary was also cut due to his race, and he was overworked, with no discussions of days off, ‘everybody was imposing on him in that taken-for-granted way white folks do with Negro help.’ (Hughes, 162). Even more importantly, when the unfortunate accident occurred with the child, there was no attempt at discerning what led to the incident, but blame was laid on the obvious person – Berry. As a result, he was relieved of his job in a hail of racist slurs. The students will be placed in their peer groups to analyze various aspects of the story.
Oppression The theme of oppression is expressed repetitively throughout this story. White workers and superiors kept expecting Milberry to do more and more. Milberry’s response to these requests was a quiet acceptance without bitterness because he was happy and thankful enough to have this job and food. In the story Milberry found happiness in helping the crippled children at play during his brief rest period. At first the nurses were hesitant whether they should allow it or not. At the end of the story the nurses had changed their mind frame about Berry and would come looking for and demanding his immediate help.
In his typical nature in responding to and accepting their demand he unknowingly caused his own demise. While Berry was helping a boy in a wheelchair down the stairs, due to know fault of Berry’s own doing, the boy fell out of the chair onto the grass and the wheelchair onto the walk. In the fall the boy was not hurt but the wheelchairs back was snapped off. In this scene Langston Hughes uses the wheelchair as a symbol of Milberry’s undoing. The wheelchair’s falling represents Berry’s falling from the grace of the white people’s acceptance. The snapped back of the wheelchair foreshadows Berry’s immediate termination of employment. Even though it was the white nurses responsibility and job they quickly and gladly placed all the blame for the accident upon Berry. This truly exemplifies the use of oppression of white people over blacks.
Sullivan is a little boy of ten years. It’s a small family of two persons with meager means. The mother is working and the son like any other boy of his age goes to school. He is a loving son and for the mother her son is as good as gold itself.
SUMMARY The story starts with a terrible sound of constant coughing of the sick mother which wakes up the little boy and he runs downstairs to look into the matter. There he finds his mother in a critical condition collapsing in an armchair holding her sides. Totally distressed she was trying to light a fire to make tea for the boy but the smoke generated by the wet sticks worsened her cough. Worried son immediately takes charge of everything. He stops her from going to work and makes her lie in the bed.
Dutiful Sullivan makes tea and toast for her. He immediately decides that instead of going to school he would stay at home to look after his mother and mind home affairs. Systematic boy heats up another kettle of water and cleans up the breakfast mess. Then he comes to his mother to make a list to shop for dinner. Caring Sullivan is worried and wants to call a doctor for his mother but thrifty mother declines his wish as she is afraid that the doctor would send her to hospital. To cheer up the frightened son the affectionate mother tries to pretend that she is fit and fine but their neighbor Miss Minnie Ryan has all the doubts that she might be suffering from pneumonia. She advises him to give his mother some hot whiskey mixed with a squeeze of lemon in it to comfort her.
Determined Sullivan goes to the public house for the first time to get whiskey. Although scared he does not lose courage and overcomes his fear. Whiskey does not work that well and whole night depressed Sullivan could not sleep due to the terrible coughing of his mother. She keeps on rambling badly while talking. In the morning bewildered Sullivan heads to call the doctor from the distant dispensary. Before that he goes to get a ticket from the house of a Poor Law Guardian to save the doctor’s fees. The organized boy tidies the house and keeps ready the basin of water, soap and a clean towel for the doctor. Much to their relief the doctor doesn’t advise to hospitalize the mother instead he prescribes a cough syrup for her.
Reliant Sullivan’s sincerity and concern earns all the praise of Miss Ryan and the doctor for him. Again the poor boy sets off with a bottle to get the medicine from the dispensary situated at a distant place. On the way he comes across a cathedral. With complete devotion he prays for his mother’s quick recovery in his heart and makes up his mind to spend his only penny to light a candle in the church when he would finish his task. At dispensary he meets a little girl Dooley who has come to get medicine for her sister. The girl is very clever and talkative. Anguished Sullivan enjoys her company after going through such terrible times. On way back the innocent boy spends his penny on sweets which they both enjoyed. Dooly is a cunning girl. She incites Sullivan to taste the sweet cough syrup of his mother. Confused boy gives way to temptation. Both of them relish it immensely. When the entire medicine is consumed confused Sullivan realizes his fault. He begins to panic and starts crying. Dooly misleads him to tell a lie that the cork fell out.
Repentant Sullivan is full of remorse and guilt feeling. He fears that because of his negligence his mother would not get well. Panicked Sullivan prays the Virgin Mary to do some miracle to save his mother. He gets back home totally broken and shattered. Mother is alarmed to see him howl. She hugs and consoles him passionately. Truthful and honest Sullivan confesses his crime. The forgiving mother shrugs it off. The tired boy falls fast asleep under the intoxication of the medicine. With the grace of God the miracle happens and Sullivan wakes up to find his mother smiling and recovered.
The story is written in autobiographical mode. The language of the text is rich and descriptive. The content of the story is based on the delicate relationship of a mother and son. The marathon efforts of the little boy to make his ailing mother comfortable fill the hearts of the readers with compassion and sympathy. The childish act of drinking the medicine of his mother by the kids is the climax of the story. Along with the boy the readers too get nervous that what is going to happen now. The plot of the story is binding.
The title of the story is very appropriate. Having his mother ill the small boy takes up the whole responsibility to attend her and mind the household. He does everything that an adult person would have done to manage the situation. Even he goes to pub to get whiskey for his mother although he was scared to see the ruffians there. He acts like a mature person taking all the wise decisions to help his mother get well soon. That is why he is aptly called ‘The Man of the House’.