A Comparison of Langston Hughes’ End and Cristina Rossetti’s Uphill

Length: 3 Pages 714 Words

A Comparison of Langston Hughes’ End and Cristina Rossetti’s Uphill The two poems, End and Uphill, by Langston Hughes and Cristina Rossetti respectively, have a common theme: death. However, the overall message of the poems is very different, as two distinct perspectives on death and its meaning unfold. Thus, Hughes’ poem describes death as an absolute final destination, as the title also indicates. The brief but effective title, “End”, suggests an ultimate state of nothingness, from which there is no respite. The poem’s form is also very significant: the text is formed exclusively of negations instead of assertions. The images constructed in the poem are all negated: there are no clocks on the wall, there is no time, there are no shadows, there is neither light nor darkness and there is no door. These negated enumerations are symbolic: the absence of clocks and of time and the disappearance of light and darkness point to the abolishment of the indispensible principles of life and existence. The imagery of absolute nothingness culminates wi Continue...

th the last exclamation of the poem, which suggests that this state of non-existence is also final and inescapable. The form and the punctuation of the poem are again significant: the author constructs her poem of a series of brief and succinct questions and answers. The absence of the door therefore indicates a closure, an absolute end which leaves not possibility for escape. Thus, the two poems analyzed, Hughes' End and Rossetti's Uphill both give an image of death and its significance: for Hughes, death is the ultimate state of total absence and negation while for Rossetti death is the final step towards eternal peace and beatitude offered by heaven. Moreover, the poem is an allegory, picturing a traveler who has to take the road 'uphill' and who hopes to find an inn at the end of his travel, for shelter and rest. The series of questions suggest that the traveler doubts that death will actually be followed by life. The title of the poem is extremely significant in this sense as it further enhances the contrast with Hughes' text: "uphill effectively designates an upward trajectory and a final destination at the peak of the road. For instance, in the second stanza, the anxiety of the traveler is easily perceived as he wanders whether, because of the darkness, he will miss the inn and pass it by without stopping. Rossetti's Uphill, on the other hand, speaks of death in different terms. The negations in the poem serve to erase all the signs of life from this ultimate state, while the last image suggests that death is an ending and not a step and that it offers no possibility for continuation. The symbols are transparent: the weary traveler is the common man who approaches the end of his life, depicted as a road leading uphill, and who, in his anxiety, begins to fear death and doubt the existence of heaven and of the eternal life. What Hughes depicts in his poem therefore is death as a state of non-existence which cannot be reversed. Thus, through a very short and simple poem, Hughes manages to create a very powerful effect: he describes death as an ultimate state, a scene of nothingness from which all else is gone. The anxiety that permeates the beginning of Rossetti's poem is soothed at the end, when the questioning stops after the last comforting answer: at the inn, there are "beds for all who come, therefore, the gates of paradise open after death and receive all the mortals.