The Comparison of Melvin Tolson “An Ex-Judge at the Bar” and Gwendolyn Brooks “The Mother”

Melvin Tolson and Gwendolyn Brooks are the African American representatives of Modernism in poetry, and they can be characterized by their active social position regarding the African Americans’ rights reflected in their poems. Thus, the theme of Melvin Tolson’s “An Ex-Judge at the Bar” is racism and justice in relation to ‘black’ people within the ‘white’ society.

In “The Birth of John Henry”, the poet develops the theme of the ‘black’ people’s strength referring to the legend of the worker John Henry who tried to oppose the pressure of the circumstances.

“The Mother” is the poem by Gwendolyn Brooks in which the author discusses the theme of abortion within the African American community caused by women’s poor conditions and poverty. However, in “A Lovely Love”, Brooks focuses on more romantic themes of the birth of love and forbidden love.

The style and idea of Melvin Tolson’s “An Ex-Judge at the Bar” can be compared with Gwendolyn Brooks’ “The Mother”. Both the poems are written in the form of the character’s interior monologue. Tolson and Brooks use the rhyming pairs in order to organize the verses which have many similarities with the free verse.

Both the poems are characterized by the highly emotional and expressive tone which is reflected in the active usage of exclamation and question points. They depict the intense of the authors’ emotions and their call to the readers.

Moreover, a lot of informal words and phrases are used in the poems to present the currency and typicality of the problems discussed. The themes of Tolson and Brooks’ poems are correlated from the point of the unjust social position of African Americans who have to suffer from the ‘white’ people’s prejudice and from the extreme poverty.

Tolson’s “The Birth of John Henry” and Brooks’ “A Lovely Love” differ significantly in relation to the style and themes discussed in these poems. “The Birth of John Henry” is a rather ironical reflection on the legend about the African American worker who did not fear to demonstrate his power.

The discussion of John Henry’s birth is the reflection of the birth of the African Americans’ identity and strength because they are as strong as the newborn protagonist of the poem. The poem is full of direct speech and exclamations to accentuate the poem’s rebellion character.

On the contrary, Brooks’ “A Lovely Love” is the properly rhymed short poem which is full of calls for lovers. In this case, the mystic birth of love which can be forbidden is described in the poem. The author refers to the concept of birth as Tolson does, but the poets’ perspectives are different because of focusing on the personal feelings and social issues.

The themes discussed by Melvin Tolson and Gwendolyn Brooks in their poems differ because of the impact of the gender aspect. In spite of the fact both the authors stood for the proclamation of the racial justice and had the active social positions, their approaches chosen for the development of the social life and poet career were extremely different.

Having received the opportunity to write the weekly column on social issues, Melvin Tolson also focused on a lot of social problems in his poetry, fighting for the evolution of the racial pride and referring to the examples of the male African Americans’ actions in this direction (“Melvin Tolson” 1369).

Gwendolyn Brooks also shared the ideas of the fight against the racial injustice, but her approach can be discussed as female one because the issues of racism in her poetry were closely connected with sexism, and they depended on the female subject (“Gwendolyn Brooks” 1625).

Works Cited

“Gwendolyn Brooks”. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates and Nellie McKay. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. 1623-1625. Print.

“Melvin Tolson”. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Ed. Henry Louis Gates and Nellie McKay. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004. 1368-1369. Print.

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