Analysis Of The Character Cora From Mulatto By Langston Hughes
The play “Mulatto” by Langston Hughes deals with life in the south in the 1930s. During this time, the system of white dominance over the black race is absolute and uncompromisingly harsh. The play focuses on the father-son relationship between Colonel Tom Norwood and his mulatto son Robert Lewis, a relationship characterized by hate and rejection of each other. Throughout the entire play, the cause of the conflict is the color line, a line that one must cross in order to be accepted and recognized as a human being. The father cannot recognize the mulatto children in the plantation as his legitimate children without forsaking his identity as a white man. This paper will take a deep analysis of the character Cora to examine her life, her sacrifices, her state of mind and her feelings.
Cora’s life has been one of mixed fortunes. On the one hand, she gets some favors because she is the mistress of Norwood while on the other hand, she is regarded as nothing more than a black woman, a nigger. Since moving into the big house, Cora has never had to worry about mistreatment or harsh life in the plantation fields. Gathering from her relationship with Norwood, one gathers that he respects and loves her. As a result, she is able to get preferential treatment that is only reserved for the white folks including living in the main house. However, on the other hand, she is a prisoner of her skin and she has little say on things revolving around her. From the onset, Norwood just sees her as a black person who should be subservient to him. Just like the first time that he lay with her when she was just fifteen years of age, Norwood saw her as a “pretty little piece of flesh, black and sweet”. It is disappointing that despite taking care of Norwood and giving birth to all his children, she does not receive the respect that her position deserves. To a large extent, Cora has sacrificed her individuality in order to protect her children. Throughout her entire life, she has had to live in the shadows of both Norwood and her children so that the children may be protected. For instance, while she does not hate Norwood, it is not clear whether she loves him. She puts her children before her happiness, comfort and fears and she makes all her life-changing decisions with the sole goal of ensuring that they are secured. She says “and I was always ready for you when you come to me in de night”. There is no mention of whether she loved him or not, just that she was ready. She has no other identity other than that of being a mother of four children. She cannot claim to be the wife of Norwood while everyone knows that she takes care of the man and has given birth to all his children. In her major lengthy speeches towards the end of the play, Cora is trying to put words to her feelings, feeling regarding her entire life. She is neither crazy nor in shock. While she initially seems to recognize that Norwood is dead, it dawns on the audience that she is lucid and aware of the fact that he is indeed dead and that all along, she was aware of the sharp difference between the races. For example, she states “… and you layin’ on de floor there, dead!”. This explains that she is aware that Norwood is dead and everyone has run away from him including his children and even his white friends. In fact, Cora further highlights that for a long time, Norwood has been dead to her. As it turns out, since he beat Robert at an early age, Cora had hated him. She observes “after you beat that child, then you died, Colonel Norwood. You died here in this house, and you been living dead a long time”. Hence, as it turns out, Cora has been living with hatred in her heart for a long time after recognizing that the father of her children will never treat then better simply because they are on the other side of the color divide. She communicates her feelings perfectly and at a much deeper level than the audience would have thought she is capable of, thereby demonstrating that she is neither mad or in shock but perfectly lucid and putting words to her feeling.
This paper sought to deeply analyze the character of Cora with the aim of examining her complex life, her sacrifices, and her state of mind. As revealed, she both a lucky and unfortunate woman who puts the safety of her children before everything else. Every major decision and action she has undertaken has been to secure the wellbeing of her children. As the play nears the end, her long monologues reveal that she is lucid and able to examine the issue of inequality between the races at a deep level.
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