In this poem, the author is bitter about being a mullato (mixed race). It is evident that that bitterness does not only emanate from being neither black nor white, but also from the contrasting living conditions his mother and father lived. The author does not have a self identity. Reconstructing this scene in realm of history, it is possible that the speaker was a slave who has a black mother and a white father. The speaker has a hard time finding his place in the society and is stuck between two prevalent extremes, poor black and rich whites. In this poem, the writer, Langston Hughes, has used persona device because he was bi-racial himself.
The poet expresses anger and confusion. The speaker cannot find his /her racial identity, and curses both rich white father and poor black mother. Through the use of lyrical first person narration, the speaker expresses his/her feelings. However, the speaker also expresses the racial feelings. The tile of the poem best explains the feeling of the poet, being a ‘cross’. The word ‘cross’ has been used to express feeling because the writer is at crossroad in terms of racial identity. He/she is stuck at the middle of racial identity having been passed on with amalgam of genes (cross of white and black genes). In addition, the speaker uses the words black, back, hell, shack, and black in a masculine end rhyme from line 2 to 4 to show anger.
The tone of the poem varies from the beginning, middle, and at the end. The tone of the poem is anger at the beginning. In the beginning, the author expresses the different identities of his mother and father in strong tone. The first line “My old man’s a white old man”, is expressed in an angry tone. Speaker prefers the words ‘My old man’s’ instead of ‘My father’, which shows anger. At the beginning the speaker makes threats at his/her parents but at the middle, the speaker takes back the threats and apologizes. The two lines, “I take my curses back” and “I’m sorry for that evil wish”, shows that the speaker apologizes for the threats and curses made earlier. At the end, the tone changes to confusion. The speaker does not know whether to be black or white.
The purpose of the speaker is to express the bitterness, anger, and confusion for being bi-racial. The speaker is trying to highlight one of the major problems that face the society, while not many people are aware of it. Bi-racial was a major problem that affected the society and bi-racial individuals, with no identity, found it difficult to integrate with the society. The writer achieves intention by eliciting emotions from the audience who can connect with concerns of the speaker. Through feelings of anger and confusion, the audience can connect with the speaker.
As a reader, I can connect with what the speaker is saying through the four elements discussed above. The purpose of the speaker is to bring out the anger inside for being bi-racial. The speaker has reached a point he/she cannot keep the bitterness inside and continue cursing his/her parents and vents it out in the poem. The tone of the poem elicits sympathy and as a reader, I can sympathize with the speaker. This poem clearly illustrates the situation as it has been for individuals born of bi-racial parents. They cannot follow any of their parents owing the social perception of each race. At the end of the poem, the speaker is confused not knowing whether he/she is black or white.