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Langston Hughes Takes a Romanticized View on Nature as Shown in the Poem Rain

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How does Hughes present nature in Rain and at least 2 other poems?

The main theme Hughes stresses throughout ‘Rain’ is the abiding nature of Rain. This is shown very clearly in the first line of the poem, where Hughes states, ‘Rain. Floods. Frost. And after frost, rain’. This further accentuates the proposition that rain, a vital part of nature, follows everything. The use of the present participle in words such as ‘ruining’ and ‘pulsing’ further underline the relentlessness of the rain and nature as a whole. Furthermore this line suggests that rain also acts as the main causation for what we can observe in nature, with the rain causing floods and then frost, before nature has reached its full circle and rain begins to pour again.

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Another continuity that can be observed throughout much of Hughes’ poetry is the destructive power of nature. Hughes uses illustrative language in order to portray a hostile, violent environment in which ‘Rain’ is set. The description of the fox corpses is particularly candid, with Hughes describing them as lying “beaten to their bare bones, skin beaten off, brains and bowels beaten out”. The repetition of the word beaten is particularly interesting as beaten has very violent connotations and the extended alliteration throughout this description evokes brutal imagery with the onomatopoeia giving the line a harsh sound.

The destructive power of nature is also stressed by Hughes in ‘Wind’. Hughes differentiates himself from the Romantic poets by not touching on the pastoral elements of the wind but focusing on the never-ending onslaught of wind, and in greater terms, nature, on human life. Hughes emphasises the insubstantial makeup of the human world, using imagery of the house which ‘strained on its guyrope’. The power of the wind is close to overcoming human life but interestingly Hughes never allows the wind to fully prevail over the extended metaphor for the human world. He stresses that although ‘the roots of the house move’, they ‘sit on’. Hughes is advocating the viewpoint of mutual respect between man and nature, an idea that his upbringing in the Pennines had cemented.

Although the wind is seen as all powerful, Hughes is careful not to anthropomorphise this part of nature, as he is a firm believer in the lack of emotion in the natural world. Although it is an image of power, with the wind described as “stampeding” and “crashing”, the use of the present participle, common in Hughes’ anti-pastoral nature poetry and seen in “Rain”, ensures the reader understands that this is a constant process, with no conceivable end and this violent episode is completely wholesome event. Hughes stresses that the attribution of human characteristics on natural processes is false and not to be performed.

This common theme of anti-pastoral non-human poetry is particularly prevalent in “View of a Pig”. This poem focuses on the lack of sentimentality attached to the death of an animal, in this case a pig. Hughes uses repetition of the word “dead” to eradicate any compassion that is felt by the reader and employs dramatic, violent adjectives to describe the death wound; “the gash in its throat was shocking, but not pathetic”. Hughes acknowledges the horror of the situation, but accentuates the lack of terror in the situation, with the line “not pathetic” stressing the need for complete dispassion when observing such a scene. Hughes ponders for a moment if one should feel “guilty insulting the dead, walking on graves”, but then remarks that “this pig did not seem able to accuse”. Hughes is ridiculing to use of meaningless human constructs such as the superstitions of walking on graves, and emphasizes the lack of dignity in death, describing the pig as lying there, “its last dignity entirely gone”.

The poem is written with a very flat tone, with blunt language; purely descriptive in the first two stanzas, with no evaluation of the connotations of this death. This shows that this is an everyday process, and the death of a pig is not particularly relevant and does not deserve human compassion. The first interference Hughes has with the pig is to ‘thump it without feeling remorse’. This is a further indication of the lack of meaning behind the pig’s death. Perhaps Hughes’ is questioning the readers integrity, for many eat pork without the slightest thought about its origin. Hughes asks us why we should then see this dead pig as any different. This presents nature as completely dispassionate and inanimate, something which we should avoid anthropomorphising as however brutal it may seem, the cycle must continue and after all, Hughes shows us that that is the reality of nature, however violent and alternative to humans it may seem.

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