Sunday, May 1, 2011



I am your son, white man!

Georgie dusk
And the turpentine woods.
One of the pillars of the temple fell.

You are my son!
Like hell!

The moon over the turpentine woods.
The Southern night
Full of stars,
Great big yellow stars.
What's a body but a toy?
Juicy bodies
Of nigger wenches
Blue black
Against black fences.
O, you little bastard boy,
What's a body but a toy?
The scent of pine wood stings the soft night air.
What's the body of your mother?
Silver moonlight everywhere.

What's the body of your mother?
Sharp pine scent in the evening air.
A nigger night,  
A nigger joy,
A little yellow
Bastard boy.

Naw, you ain't my brother.
Niggers ain't my brother.
Not ever.
Niggers ain't my brother.
The Southern night is full of stars,
Great big yellow stars.
                                O, sweet as earth,
                                Dusk dark bodies
Give sweet birth
To little yellow bastard boys.

                Git on back there in the night,
                You ain’t white.

The bright stars scatter everywhere.
Pine wood scent in the evening air.
                                A nigger night,
                                A nigger joy.
                I am your son, white man!

                                A little yellow
                                Bastard boy.

I will be discussing the meaning and the reasons behind the poem “Mulatto.” Langston Hughes is of a biracial background, both of his parents being of multiple ethnicities. Hughes has a forefront view of the plight of biracial people by dealing with his ethnicity on a day to day basis. The poem, “Mulatto” resonates with the tensions of Hughes’s strained father-son relationship, as shown in the first line—“I am your son, white man!”. Although Hughes’s father is biracial, there are still traces of the abandoned boy calling out to a father who acts like a white man and despises his own kind. In the last lines—“A little yellow / Bastard boy”—Hughes’s assertion of pride in his biracial heritage and a slight taunting of his father are paramount. Hughes spoke for himself but by combining the material of biracialism and paternity in “Mulatto.” He also spoke for the biracial community in its entirety. Anglo-Americans refused to acknowledge mulattos as having any affiliation with their pure bloodlines. This point is made obvious by the answer to the first line from the “white father” saying—“You are my son! / Like hell!”, and also, from the response of the “white half-siblings” saying—“Naw, you ain’t my brother / Niggers ain’t my brother / Not ever / Niggers ain’t my brother”.
                Some formal properties used in this poem include specifically its use of italics and its employment of three different lengths of line indentation. The italics and indentations provide essential cues as to whether the lines are words spoken and the source of the words. There are four voices in the poem: the mulatto, the father, the white half-siblings, the narrator, and the combination of the narrator and mulatto. The poem presents five distinct point of views and because of the differentiation for these voices—upon which the entire meaning of the poem depends—Hughes’s use of italics and three different lengths of line indentation.

1 comment:

  1. "I am your son, white man!" This statement resonates so strong. We are all brothers and sisters and nobody can deny the connection we have. I can't begin to feel the motivation for these words other than how I feel when I imagine him writing them.
    Even as a white man I can understand the isolation and negative feelings invoked. You are my brother, black man. Deep down, a white brother who feels the isolation and the negative feelings involved with it. I am not even religious and I cannot escape the reality of his words. You are my brothers and sisters just as much as any other, including blood.