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Analysis: Early Autumn by Langston Hughes

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Analysis: Early Autumn by Langston Hughes ©
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Early Autumn by Langston Hughes

Analysis:


The short story „Early Autumn“ by the American author Langston Hughes, originated in the year 1963, deals with the coincidental meeting of a former couple and the re-emerging emotions of the heartbroken and desperate female protagonist.

The short story is set some unspecified time after the breakup of the main characters Bill and Mary that have split up for an “not very important” reason (line2). Considering that Bill has two kids with his wife and Mary having three with her husband it can be assumed that multiple years have passed between the break up and the following coincidental meeting in the Washington Square Park at dawn.

Mary gets her ex-boyfriend´s attention by saying his name which is being followed by a short conversation where both Bill and Mary state their current living situation. At the end of the conversation Mary invites Bill to meet her and her family someday which Bill accepts to do. The ex-couple departures as soon as Mary´s bus arrives and the story ends with a thoughtful Mary that has forgotten to give Bill her address to come and meet her in the future.

The story begins with a flashback to the days when Bill and Mary still were a couple. Like the rest of the story this segment is being narrated by an all-knowing storyteller that reflects what is happening, what has happened and what Mary is thinking. This flashback is a short summary that tells the reader that Mary and Bill once been in love until “something not very important had come between them” (lines 2-3) which led to them not talking to one another.

This impulsive break up over something unimportant tells the reader right away that this relationship wasn´t the sturdiest kind of relationship to begin with. The speaker continues to summarize by telling the reader that Mary went on to rashly marry a man “she thought she loved” (line 4) while Bill left, now feeling rese.....[read full text]

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Which follows is a quick sequence of short questions by Mary and just as short answers by Bill that states that he is married, has two kids and that he works as a lawyer in downtown New York. This short sequence of quick questions and answers depicts this situation as unpleasant for both Mary and Bill.

Bill just seems to want to get this situation over with already which is why he just gives Mary these quick answers to get this conversation over with fast. Mary on the other hand seems to be a bit disappointed with the seemingly good life Bill is living which is even clearer with her reaction after Bill told her that she is married.

Mary reacts to this information’s just as Bill did in line 14 by saying “Oh” (Line 10). This surprised and maybe disappointed reaction goes back to the interpretation of Mary still having affection for Bill and that because he already has a family she loses this glimmer of hope of escaping her own loveless life by getting back with Bill.

The speaker continues on by explaining the scenery in which Bill and Mary are located. The ex-couple is being surrounded by a lot of people that, like Bill and Mary, are passing through this park. These people are being described as “people they didn´t know”  (line 22) which paints a picture of a seemingly fateful meeting of two people in the midst of hundreds of strangers.

This image of many people is one of the two big images in this short story that also function as metaphors which I will detail as we progress. The scenery is further explained as it being “late afternoon”, “nearly sunset” and as “cold” (line22). This description of a dark and cold scenery is a metaphor for the distant relationship .....[read full text]

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But different from her Bill hasn´t aged all that much. To her Bill “was still young” (line28). That he still looks young to Mary might be a consequence from Mary glorifying Bill because to her he stands for everything she once were and everything she wants to be again. Youthfulness, freedom and most importantly time.

In her mind she could once again be young if she is with Bill. The invitation that Mary makes Bill to meet her and her family might be considered as an approach to get back nearer to Bill. Bill accepts this invitation and says that “Lucille and [he´d] love to have [her]” (line 32). That he immediately brings in his family into this invitation makes clear that he is very proud and happy of his family and his wife Lucille, which he explicitly names.

He might have taken this invitation for two different reasons: the first one being that he did it just to be polite. He didn´t wanted to be rude and hurt Mary´s feeling by refusing Mary´s invitation even though he didn´t wanted to visit her in the first place which is clearer when he doesn´t give her his address nor asking for her one.

But that she forgets to swap their addresses might also been an unfortunate accident. The other reason he might have taken the invitation might be because he wanted to show his family and his luxurious lifestyle as a successful lawyer which is being underlined by the fact that he wants Mary to visit his home even though Mary has invited him into her home before.

But Mary still accepts gladly. Next up is the other big metaphor in this short story: the autumn. The title “Early Autumn” already gave away the first interpretative approach. The autumn doesn´t only stand for the time period this short story is set in but it also stands for something withering and ultimat.....[read full text]

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