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    Dickinson And Hughes Essay (666 words)

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    After reading both “Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant” by Emily Dickinsonand “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, I determined that the main differencebetween the two poems is both poets’ use of diction. Dickinson makes use ofabstract diction in her poem, using words like bright, delight, superb, anddazzle.

    Using the word “truth” in itself is an enormous abstraction. Hughes,however, uses more concrete diction, with words such as raisin, fester, sore,meat, and load. These are actual, physical things that exist. I see this as themost significant difference between the two poems.

    At first glance,Dickinson’s poem made no sense to me. I then, however, tore it apart and cameup with the following explication. Line one basically states “tell me thewhole truth, but don’t be so direct. Don’t just come out and say it. ” Inline two, when the speaker refers to a circuit, she is most likely comparing theway they tell the truth to the way circuits wind their way around a room, mostlyhidden, but getting their job done.

    Lines three and four are saying the directtruth may be too much to handle, such as the sun may be too bright to look atdirectly. Lines five and six are telling this person to explain the truth likeone might explain lightning to a child, with a kind, soothing tone of voicethat’s easy to understand. Lines seven and eight say that the truth must comea little at a time, or gradually, so that it may leave us in some suspense,rather than hitting us all at once and leaving us unable to comprehend the wholetruth for what it is. Dickinson’s use of alliteration shows in the poem,especially in lines one, two, four, and seven, where she uses words in pairs,such as tell, truth, success, circuit, the, truth, superb, and surprise. Theauthor also uses an a b c b rime scheme.

    Langston Hughes’s poem “Harlem”was bit easier to explicate because of his use of concrete diction. The firstline is simply an introduction into the poem, which in itself is a pondering ofwhat happens to a dream when it must be postponed or put off. The main body ofthe poem goes into detail about what happens to the dream. Does it dry up like araisin in the sun? Fester like a sore? The whole poem is basically a simile. Theauthor compares this deferred dream to a dried up raisin, a festering sore,rotten meat, syrupy sweetness that’s crusty and sugary, a heavy load that justsags, and finally, does it just explode? He uses very good imagery, and I’malmost able to see this dream being put off, forgotten about, or deteriorating.

    Both authors, although using completely different methods, come across veryclearly with their main point. While Dickinson is abstract, and Hughes is moreconcrete with his diction, they both use considerable similes, Hughes more thanDickinson. For example, Hughes uses similes in almost every line of his poem. Dickinson uses only a few, such as “as lightning to the children”. Dickinsonalso uses personification, in saying that the truth must dazzle gradually, orusing the phrase “the Truth’s superb surprise”, referring to the truth asa proper noun, giving it human characteristics. The tone of Dickinson’s poemdiffers from that of Hughes’s poem in the sense that Hughes’s poem isinquisitive, while Dickinson’s is more commanding.

    The speaker of “Tell allthe Truth. . . ” is saying exactly that- tell all the truth but tell it slant,while the speaker in “Harlem” is more contemplative, asking what happens toa dream deferred. The imagery of both poems leaves me with solid pictures in mymind.

    In “Tell All The Truth. . . ” the Truth takes on this certain aura, whereyou feel that experiencing it would be something wonderful, and it would dazzleyou to no end. Also, as mentioned above, “Harlem” creates the picture of adream deteriorating, in one way or another.

    Hughes’s use of language easilyput these images in front of us for us to see. BibliographyKennedy, X. J. and Gioia, Dana.

    An Introduction to Poetry. 9th ed. New York:Harper Collins, 1994.

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