The events that preceded the Great War and the numerous technological innovations of the time had a significant impact on American arts and the society in the early twentieth century. Remarkably, this era was dominated by a progression that triggered a drastic shift in attitudes and perceptions towards values, styles, and practices that dominated the nineteenth century. It is during this epoch that there emerged two great poets, Robert Frost and Langston Hughes. Using diverse ways, these two renowned American poets utilized the concept of imagination to highlight the chaos and tensions that festered within the United States. This paper will compare some of the poems authored by these individuals and highlight the features that made their poetry distinctive.
Various poems illustrate the different views held by both Frost and Hughes. For instance, Frost poem entitled "Design" utilizes stylistic devices such as irony, manipulation of form, speaker's inability to express his doubts, and the questioning of authority and structure in a world that is characterized by instability and devastation. Contrary, Hughes poem "Mother to Son" uses a common dialect, a straightforward subject matter, and incorporates the old black musical traditions to express the desire to celebrate the human spirit and the nature of life that the low-class black Americans faced in the early twentieth century.
Arguably, the New York Armory show of 1913 had a significant influence on both Langston Hughes and Robert Frost's poetry. According to Belasco and Johnson, the poets present "... a search for new beauty, impatience with formulae, a reaching out toward the inexpressible, a longing for new versions of truth" (503). Certainly, both Robert and Hughes were inspired by the new artistic spirit that required individuals to express themselves sincerely, freely, and entirely using forms of art. Notably, the new form of poetry composition was careless of form and fearless of the opinions that they aired about the author and the society. This is portrayed in poems such as "Design" which is authored by Robert Frost. In this masterpiece, the author disregards all the notions and characteristics of the traditional sonnet. Typically, although the content of the poem suggests romantic expressions of love, the author depicts something that has an ominous nature and divulges a deep consciousness of fear and confusion that engulfs the modern civilization. Such claims can be supported by the author's utilization of lines such as; "Assorted characters of death and blight, Mixed ready to begin the morning right, and Like the ingredients of a witches' broth" (4-6.592). Although these lines do not evoke the sentimental feeling, the author depicts the evils that happen in the society.
Across this sonnet, the poet manipulates the resolution of the poem by failing to offer a resolution at all. Instead, the poem ends with questions that try to illustrate the doubts of universal authority and the structures that a significant majority of the society endured during this epoch. In the poem the speaker questions the individuals in authority by asking..."What but the design of darkness to appall? -- / If design governs in a thing so small" (13-14.593). In this masterpiece, Robert Frost dealt with the aspect of destruction and instability that faced the modern world by pressing against the established traditions thus creating a disorder in the poetry. Based on these perspectives, the poem acted as an effective retreat and relief from the sad realities that were present in the society through its creation chaos. This is depicted in his expository essay, "The Figure a Poem Makes": "...It begins in delight; it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down... and ends in a clarification of life-not necessarily a great clarification . . . But in a momentary stay against confusion" (565).
Secondly, Irony is among the most commonly used styles by both Hughes and Robert. For instance, In Robert Frost poem, Design, the title is ironic. While the title suggests order, the world and society depicted by the poet are disorderly and full of chaos. Moreover, the expressions and the questions that are offered at the end of the poem are ironic since at the end of the poem there is no conclusion that is offered to the reader. Notably, the speaker's inability to make choices adds to the general feeling of modernization and the events of the World War I; there were devastation and a state of hopelessness among the Americans after the war.
On the other hand, Hughes used his poetry to respond to the racial tensions that were eminent across the nation. Since Hughes was a staunch supporter of the Harlem Renaissance movement that was developed in the early twentieth century, he placed great importance on the true nature of the African American culture and art. Essentially, across his works, he responded to racial subjects in a manner that glorified the Negro artists and challenged the notion of what was regarded as the ideal American society.
To sum up, the changing social perceptions and attitudes towards traditions allowed authors such as Robert Frost and Hughes to develop distinctive methods of composing poems. This aspect allowed the poets to come to terms with the notions of the modernizing world. Remarkably, their poetry ignited in their readers a unique type of imagination that was not present in the nineteenth century. As a result, the views of these authors have a lasting impression that affects the contemporary readers.
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