The Negro Speaks of Rivers vs Oedipus the King: Compare & Contrast

The Negro Speaks of Rivers vs Oedipus the King: Compare & Contrast
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Sonnet poems majorly follow two major forms chosen by the poet, Italian or English forms, or maybe a combination of both. The Italian form consists of an octave (8 line stanzas) and a sestet (6 line stanza) with the first stanza giving the theme and the second one develops that theme, the rhyme scheme in this form is:- 1st stanza, ABBA, ABBA and the second line having CDE, CDE. The English form consists of three and four-line stanzas and a couplet (conclusion) having two lines. In The poem “How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways” by Elizabeth Barrett, the poet chose the Italian format to write her poems considering her rhyme scheme in the poem as discussed above(Kennedy & Gioia, pg 737)

           A turn in a poem is the point where the poem starts to talk to itself diverting from the mainstream idea and express a completely new attitude. In the Italian format, the turn comes in between the octave and the sestet. In the poem above occurs between the following lines:

 I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old grief, and with my childhood’s faith


        In the first octave line, the poem portrays a positive attitude of the ways of love, however, this changes with the use of the word “griefs” in the 2nd line of the sestet. (Kennedy, Gioia, pg 737)

The poem also uses other forms of devices, but that which stands out is the use of figurative language and the dominant figure of speech is the anaphora for example the use of the sentence “I love thee” in 8 lines and the use of “I shall love thee” in the last line. There is also alliteration in the poem as shown under:

Thee, the (Lines 1, 2, 5, 9, 12).

Love, level (Line 5)

Passion, put (Line 9)

But, better (Line 14)

         There is also the adoption of rhyming words in the poem- abba and abba (in her first 8 lines) while in the remaining 6 lines there is a use of cde, cde: cdc, cdc.

           The use of figurative language such as alliteration gives the poem it’s musical follow which makes it easily memorable and the rhyme causes a stressing effect giving emphasis on the theme of intense love and creating the love tone needed as developed by the poet.

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers”

              In this poem there is no rhyme, however, it is full of sound & movements for example in the lines “I’ve known rivers” and “my soul has grown deep like the rivers” are repeated at the start and at the end, in this manner the poem has a cyclical effect for they enable us to enter and leave the poem. In lines 5-8 he gets repetitive of the pronoun “I” and the verb “I looked” “I built” this creates musicality in the poem. The tone given by the sound is somber depicting the suffering and mistreatment the Negro went through in times of slavery showing that it’s a freedom poem written to deliver blacks from the bondage of slavery. (Kennedy & Gioia, pg 718)

                This poem has got three parts or structures- 1) “I’ve known rivers” 2) “my soul has grown deep as rivers” 3) “the world’s greatest rivers” the first two structures are repeated at the end and the last structure is just in the middle, this indicates the poet’s familiarity with the suffering of his persona.   

Comment on one of the brief definitions of poetry

                 Poetry is that awareness of experience that is imaginative and is expressed through sound, rhythm and has meanings that evoke emotions in response to it. (Kennedy & Gioia, pg 680-681) Over the years poetry has made use of various styles which have changed with time and possibly making it impossible if not difficult to define what exactly it is, this is because some poems don’t follow the conventional guidelines and do little to evoke readers’ emotions however, the majority follow these conventions, for example, sonnets conventionally should have fourteen lines and appeal to emotions: in “next to of course god America i” by e. e. cummings that contains 14 lines and appeals to the emotion of patriotism and foolishness, generally it speaks about nationalism and advises readers to be patriotic/heroic.

The play Trifles

                  In the play, “Trifles” the women were much better at solving the murder crime because they had the ability to sympathize with Minnie (the wife to the victim) and so this made them understand the motives of Minnie and subsequently deduce evidence against her and on the other hand men are depicted as blinded by their emotionless material fact investigations. These women find another body that has been killed the same way as John Wright making them conclude that it’s Minnie who is the murderer however, they disguise as friends who empathize with her:-

MRS. HALE: I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be–for women, I tell you, and it’s queer…. We all go through the same things…

MRS. PETERS: My, it’s a good thing the men couldn’t hear us. Wouldn’t they just laugh….

Play settings

                  Setting in a play forms the backdrop for action and in some instances setting can be more than one, and it provides a tremendous advantage to the play in that it can act as a character in its own right, establishes mood or atmosphere for the play having in mind that it constitute more than physical features. However, the use of these elements to create a sense of realism can be exaggerated distorting the intended message from the playwright. In abandoning the entire set, then the audience is given the platform of their own interpretation of the play.

Human folly in soap operas

                  In soap operas, though they show some sense of reality that happens in real life, they also give certain follies in equal measure. They instill false hopes of luck to viewers, that you are capable of winning a lottery in a single trial without struggle, they give fantasies about love and that a character can kill many people and do all it takes to evade arrest.


In Oedipus the King, foreshadowing is used in:

  • Oedipus’ name that means “swollen foot” and it foreshadows the realization of his origin/identity. It is ironic because he is given a name that is his real identity.
  • Oedipus’s command that no one to know the place of his burial this foreshadows problems that shall be in his burial. This is ironic since indeed his burial was marred with a lot of problems.

Tragic hero in Oedipus the King

           The qualities of a tragic hero are that he doesn’t violet used codes, doesn’t express himself to a point of people suffering more than allowed by the duty of the king, doesn’t suffer, and be isolated, or doesn’t destroy his body to allow enlargement of his spirit. Jocasta is not a tragic hero because she lacks these qualities both in her character and actions even though she portrays the majority of these qualities, she, for instance, went under inner torture at the thought of her husband finding the truth, she stated “May you never find out who you are” and she had reckless expressions but opposed it. (Kennedy & Gioia, pg 1123)

Significance of learning literature

             Learning of literature in schools has got a lot of importance because learners are capable of exploring aspects of English culture in its literature, for enjoyment and appreciate works of the writers, to enhance academic abilities in other areas of study and to improve critical thinking through analysis of different texts and poems. In support of the above reasons to my view literature of any group of people carries with it their culture and it’s majorly shared through books and by analyzing different texts from different cultures then one develops critical mind not only for the subject but also in dealing with others. (Kennedy & Gioia, pg 545)

 Works cited:

Kennedy, X. J., and Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing,.

  1. Reprint. New York: Longman Publishing Group, 2010. Print.