In Langston Hughes’ poem “Ruby Brown,” the title character was too pretty, too good for the city of Mayville but the oppression of African-Americans during this period forbade her to take control of her life and realize the dreams she had.

She had two options in her cruel and desperate life. In a nutshell, one option was to polish silver for no money or turn to prostitution for somewhat a decent buck but at the cost of losing respect and dignity.

The poem starts off by describing an innocent, young, and beautiful girl with the sky being the limit. Unfortunately, as the poem progresses, one learns that because she is colored, her beauty and her youth will only get her that far. There are restrictions thrown upon her. The poem is describing a waste of a natural gift.

Basically what I mean by this is that all of the gifts that she was given upon birth are restricted by the white man. She is working for a white woman for little pay and if the church refuses to mention your name, you know that you have officially screwed up.

Two particular choices of words were a rejection of the church folk and acceptance of the white men (summarized into one) and then the start of the third paragraph where Hughes mentions the streets and their knowledge about a different Ruby Brown.

What we have here is a switch that went from complete innocence and ignorance to complete guilt and/or shame. The turning point would definitely be at the end of paragraph two, where two very important questions were asked, but unfortunately left unanswered. This goes to show me that he did not want them answered because maybe of shame, embarrassment, or some kind of preparation or smooth transition into what he was going to say next.

She is rejected by everybody except for the white men, which as kindly put in the poem are “Habitués of the high shuttered houses” in the bottoms. She gets more money now but where are happiness and self-respect?

She was looking for answers in all the wrong places. She was a confused young woman with no pride and Hughes is trying to show this and say, do not let the white man take over, be proud of who you are, no matter where you are, because it does not rain every day and happiness will be achieved sooner or later.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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