Politics and Structure in Harlem Renaissance Writing – Essay Example
The paper "Politics and Structure in Harlem Renaissance Writing" is a great example of an essay on literature. Christo’s works of art are meant to make statements so large about the universal connections among humans that he makes them large enough (in some cases) to be seen from space. He has erected large yellow tapestries in California and Japan to urge harmony among humanity, and he put orange archways throughout all of Central Park to remind New Yorkers that there are other humans passing through the park and that every chance to interact with other people should be celebrated. Similarly, writers of the Harlem Renaissance permitted their political messages to dictate formal aspects of their writing – structure, in the case of such novels as Quicksand and Infants of the Spring; and meter, rhyme, tone, and diction in such poems as “Jazzonia” and “Song for a Dark Girl.” The writers of this time period had a great deal to get off their chests about racial and sexual politics – their works, it should be no surprise, pulsate with their ideas. Quicksand and Infants of the Spring deal primarily with the question of what “black” and “white” sexuality entails, and how genuinely a sexual person of color might expect to find affirmation outside African-American society. Helga, in Quicksand, escapes America and finds brief success as a “peacock” in Europe – a woman of color who intrigues those around her by her ostensible primitive, sensual nature that was supposed to possess none of the Puritanical inhibitions of the European culture. Her story is written as a novel-of-passing – here, a story that sees race as a social construct. Because Helga sees her problems as caused by the stereotypes of others, she cannot find happiness in her success, and so ends up in a “quicksand” of her own making. Infants of the Spring shows the perils of being black, gay, and interested in white men during the 11920s as part of a larger satire of the Harlem Renaissance, which saw itself as a shining, intellectual tower far above the world around it. This novel is written in short chapters, as a part of the author’s desire to write a series of images – art for art’s sake – rather than another expressly political novel about the black experience. Ironically, the desire to keep politics from affecting the form of the novel ends up dramatically shaping the structure. “Jazzonia” and “Song for a Dark Girl” both throb with the jazz and blues rhythms of the music of their age. In the first poem, Hughes takes a black dancing girl with “bold” eyes, lifting up in the air her “dress of silken gold”(3-4) – putting herself on display as a sexual exotic, much as Helga does in Quicksand – and compares her audacity to that of Eve, and of Cleopatra: strong women who brought sorrow down on themselves. The use of allusion here shows the dark end that awaits the dancing girl – eventually, she will be too old to be of use for her exhibitors, and she will be cast aside. “Song for a Dark Girl” was motivated by a KKK lynching, and places the girl’s “bruised body high in the air”(6) in parallel to the sacrifice of the “white Jesus Christ”(7) by leaving the “naked shadow on a gnarled and naked tree”(11-12). The tree could have been the cross, or it could have been the one where this young girl was murdered. The rhythm of the poem is that of the blues – a mode of music meant for those parts of the human animal that are so despicable, and so ingrained, that people of conscience will never be able to stop hating them. The messages of these two poems pass into the reader just as viscerally as the movement of the dancer, and the sad shock of the tree.