Figurative Language In O Southland

Decent Essays
Although Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and African Americans were instilled with great purpose, they still struggled to lay claim to their freedom due to the unwillingness of the South to let go. This physical struggle was represented in Johnson's poem “O Southland!” The poem begins with the speaker being sympathetic towards the African American race and asking Southland a series of rhetorical questions. The repetition of “O Southland! O Southland!” at the beginning of each stanza makes the speaker’s tone seem pleading (“Southland” 1.1). The speaker asks if Southland has not heard news about the “watchword,” “hope-word,” or new “gospel” about equality for all men (“Southland” 1.5,7). Additionally, the speaker…show more content…
Moreover, Southland “still cling[s]” to a “musty page” of history (“Southland” 3.18,19). The poet’s word choice of “cling” suggests that Southland is desperate to stay stuck in the past. However, the speaker defends the African American’s freedom by arguing that the “world is young again” and men are in their rightful place in society (“Southland” 3.22,24). Perhaps, the speaker comments that the “world is young again” because African American children are no longer expected to be men. Additionally, perhaps the speaker says that men are in their rightful place because now God is the only ruler of a race. In stanza 4, the speaker takes pride in the fact that Southland is his home by saying “my Southland! O birthland” (“Southland” 4.25,26). Similarly, the speaker’s tone shifts as he recognizes Southland, saddened by the fact that Southland is not recognizing him. The speaker urges Southland to live up to the obligations they have made-- America has made. They should not be prideful in pushing around the weak. Strength can only be found in those who help others, because in return, those ‘others’ help
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