Hardships Expressed in Hughes On the Road and Mother to Son
African-American citizens who live in the United States have experienced a tough life through personal experiences. They have struggled to obtain basic civil rights--a struggle that has spanned many centuries (Mabunda 311).
Langston Hughes, author of the short story "On the Road" and the poem "Mother to Son," often illustrated in his writing the hardships experienced by the characters--products of African American life in the United States. While Hughes and other young African-American authors wanted to define and celebrate black art and culture, they were also responsible for changing the preconceived notions of most Americans' erroneous ideas of black life (Mabunda 696). The cultural aspects of Hughes' poems exhibited life as an African-American in the late 1910s to the early 1960s. His views, like many writers in his era, came directly from personal experience, which provided the reader with a sense of communication that illustrated--with art rather than essay--the ills of the racist world. L. Mpho Mabunda proclaims that the issues and grim realities of the African-American "could be experienced through the lives of characters and in verse, and the message delivered more subtly and effectively" (696).
The overall theme and purpose of "On the Road" and "Mother to Son" are centered around an illustration of the hardships experienced by most African-American citizens in the early part of the century. Both genres graphically detail the lifestyle and environment in which the African-American lived. In the 20th century, many of the black communities in America have existed in a perpetual state of crisis ("Black American"). According to Kenneth Clark in his address entitled "The Present Dilemma of the Negro," African-Americans have lived in an environment characteristic of poor housing and dirty, filthy drabness of the streets and neighborhoods (14-5). The lifestyle of African Americans reflects the influence of cultural traditions that originated in Africa but at the same time reflects the uniqueness of the African-American in the United States ("Black American").
One noticeable mark of African-American culture in "On the Road" was the significance of the white reverend in the short story. His oppression towards the black man was an example of the same oppression experienced by the African-American in that era. The doors--which hold him back--in the short story also served as a model of the oppression the African-American endured. Increased slavery in the south, the slave trades that began in the early 1800s, unemployment in black urban areas, substandard educational provisions, and rise of racism were among the many oppressive aspects of the African-American's life (Blacks in America 81, 83, 85-6). These oppressions were represented by the doors mentioned in the short story.
Hughes' description of the church and the presence of Christ were meant to illustrate the...