Poetry Response #5

Life is Fine

By: Langston Hughes

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn’t,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.

But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!

I took the elevator
Sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
And thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.

But it was High up there! It was high!

So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love–
But for livin’ I was born

Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry–
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.

Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

 

 

Date of reading: October 30th

Source: http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/langston_hughes/poems/16946

Author: Langston Hughes

Main Theme: the value of life (and if it even has any)

My response:

I think this poem subtly yet accurately describes the struggling feelings of an African American who grew up in a very racial setting, in a multicultural family where not everyone gets treated the same, not to mention poor relationships with his parents. Hughes describes two situations in which he has wanted to die – the first one is “I set down on the bank / I tried to think but couldn’t / So I jumped in and sank”. I think this is describing the mental turmoil he felt, and how he could not think of any way to improve his situation. In the second half, he says, “I took the elevator / Sixteen floors above the ground. / I thought about my baby / And thought I would jump down.” I think in this section is saying that he wouldn’t want to see his children growing up in such a racial lifestyle, but at the same time he couldn’t get himself to let go and abandon them, because he could not jump down from the building. He describes how the water is so cold, and the building is so high, and that is why he cannot go through with suicide. I think this is saying that it would hurt too much for him to die, but it hurts too much to live for him to not think about dying. Thusly, he feels trapped, and the last line of the poem strikes me as rather satirical – he is desperately trying to convince himself that life is good, because he has to keep on living even if he feels it’s not worth it.

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