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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

SOUTHERN MANSION, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

Arna Bontemps was an important African American writer and poet who lived from 1902 to 1973. He was a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance literary movement and is known for his work as a historian of African American culture. One of his notable works is the poem "Southern Mansion", which was published in 1937. The poem is a searing critique of the Southern plantation system and exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of a society that prides itself on luxury and refinement, while perpetuating injustice and inequality.

Content: 

"Southern Mansion" is a powerful and evocative poem that exposes the hypocrisy and cruelty of the Southern plantation system. The poem begins with the speaker describing the Southern mansion as a place of grandeur and luxury, with its sprawling gardens and ornate architecture. However, as the poem progresses, the speaker exposes the dark underbelly of the plantation system, describing the inhumane treatment of the enslaved people who worked the land. The final stanza of the poem is particularly powerful, as the speaker suggests that the ghosts of the enslaved people still haunt the mansion, seeking justice and redemption.

Form: 

The poem is structured in six stanzas, each with four lines, and uses a consistent ABAB rhyme scheme. The poem's form is characterized by its consistent rhyme scheme and four-line stanzas, which create a sense of structure and order in the poem. The use of vivid imagery, such as the description of the plantation mansion as a "house of pride and pain", helps to create a sense of atmosphere and mood.

Poetic Elements: 

The poem employs several poetic devices, including metaphor, imagery, and allusion. The comparison of the Southern mansion to a "house of pride and pain" creates a sense of irony and exposes the contradiction of a society that prides itself on luxury and refinement, while perpetuating injustice and cruelty. The reference to the "ghouls of slaves" alludes to the legacy of slavery and the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Summary: 

"Southern Mansion" is a powerful and searing critique of the Southern plantation system and the legacy of slavery in America. The poem's use of vivid imagery and metaphor helps to expose the hypocrisy and cruelty of a society that prides itself on luxury and refinement, while perpetuating injustice and inequality. Overall, the poem is a powerful reflection on the history of racial oppression in America, and its relevance continues to resonate today as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for social and racial justice.


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