Analyzing the poem “Still Here” by Langston Hughes to understand the personal messages that can be found within.
Upon first reading this poem, the reader’s attention is captured by the poem’s diction; his word choices automatically bring a vivid image to their mind as they try to make sense of the writing. The poem itself is only a few lines long, yet it brings with it such power, much of that deriving from the vocabulary used. This observation paper will take Hughes’ poem apart line by line so as to better understand the meaning it brings.
“I’ve been scarred and battered”(78). This story is narrated from the main character’s point of view, showing us his thoughts on his situation. Scars are wounds that have yet to truly heal and may never actually fade away, staying on the main character’s body. Though the pain has disappeared, the memory of it will stay as the scar serves as a reminder. The word ‘battered’ brings with it the connotation of repetition- the narrator has not only been hurt once, but on multiple occasions. Both these words hold a certain meaning of physicality, but can also be alluding to mental scarring and battery.
“My hopes the wind done scattered”(78). The first line brings with it a mostly physical connotation, but this line focuses on the metaphorical world. Hopes are not something physical, but are mental ideas and beliefs, things you reach for and desire after. It is these hopes- these ideas that are ‘scattered’. This word brings with it the idea of a breaking apart, being spread away by the wind. It is interesting that Hughes’ uses ‘wind’ to separate the hopes- wind is part of the world, it is natural and something that is often and commonly seen.
“Snow has friz me, sun has baked me”(78). Once again in this line, Hughes is focusing on the natural things of the world- of the snow and the sun. There is an extreme shift that exists between snow and sun in terms of temperature and the main character and narrator is being affected by both. Friz is an interesting word; is he making a comparison of how the cold he has faced has caused him to curl up, to tighten? That the cold of the world has led to him growing numb inside? Being ‘baked’ in the ‘sun’ causes the reader to imagine this curled up and tightened narrator, by something that is naturally there, that is often very intense and harsh and covering both extremes.
“Looks like between ‘em/They done tried to make me/Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’”(78). This focuses on the effect that the wind, snow, and sun have had on them- on their purpose. They are all trying to break him, to destroy who the narrator is. They have scattered his dreams and are now trying to take away the joy that he gains from laughing, loving, and even living. “But I don’t care! I’m still here!”(78) Hughes finishes the poem with. Despite all the elements of nature- of the world fighting against him, trying to destroy him, he still perseveres, not allwing their actions and its effects on him to bring him down or make him give up.
This poem brings with it an intense view of human nature and the world’s- societies -effect on the individual. As the ‘wind’, ‘snow’, and ‘sun; of society have ‘battered’ and tried to ‘stop’ the narrator, he has not given in- instead he is ‘still here’, ‘laughin’’, ‘lovin’’, and especially ‘livin’’. They ‘tried’, and yet they ultimately failed. Though scattered, his hopes are still there. This poem brings a power with it, showing the strength that a soul has to continue to survive no matter what they face. That is what the meaning of this poem is.
“English Dictionary, Thesaurus, & Grammar Help.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, http://www.lexico.com.
Hughes, Langston. “Still Here.” 101 Great American Poems, edited by Paul Negri, Dover Publications Inc., 1998, pp. 78.