Literary Techniques in “Early Autumn” by Langston Hughes

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the story, Early Autumn, Langston Hughes employs different techniques to help convey the message that time can alter people and their relationships immensely. Using elements including varied syntax and descriptions of the characters, Hughes shows how the two character’s attitudes of one another changed from the time they last met.

Firstly, Hughes varies his sentence structure to show how time has changed Mary and Bill’s view on one another. A majority of the sentences are either concise or fragment sentences. This gives the paragraphs a quick and jumpy rhythm, which compares to the situation these two people are in. Meeting each other after a while of being apart, makes Mary and Bill’s conversation a little awkward. The short sentences and fragments reflect how uncomfortable the scenario is. The last paragraph shows Mary’s thoughts, and the syntax goes from a short sentence, to a longer one, and then two concise sentences. This change in the lengths of the sentences reveals how distraught Mary is about leaving Bill, not like she had been when they left each other before. The fragment “space and people” refers to the two things that divided them the first time; space being the “not very important thing” and people being the man Mary married.

Secondly, through descriptions of the characters, the author reveals how time can change people and their views. When Mary and Bill stopped talking to each other, Mary did not love Bill and thought she loved another man. In the story, Mary seems more interested in Bill than she had been when they stopped seeing one another. This is shown when Hughes describes Mary as “unconsciously” lifting “her face as though wanting a kiss.” Throughout the time spent away from each other and with other people, Mary’s opinion of Bill has changed. She kept “desperately” wanting to go “back into the past” when they first were dating, almost as if she is nostalgic of their time together. The last line of the story explains Mary’s thoughts of how she regrets not telling Bill that one of her children is named after him. This key description reveals how Mary now feels affection towards Bill, unlike how she felt when they ended the relationship.

Similar to how Mary’s feelings changed, Bill’s perspective on Mary changes during their time spent apart. When the relationship first ended Bill was heartbroken, but when they meet again, Bill seems courteous but distant, like he no longer feels any previous emotions towards Mary. Hughes conveys this by how Bill describes Mary in his thoughts. No longer is Mary the young love Bill once adored; now he thinks of her as “so old” and did not even recognize her when they greet. Hughes shows how Bill is still decent towards Mary, for when Mary speaks, he smiles “politely,” resembling an acquaintance more than an old lover.

When Mary left the relationship she did not love Bill she thought she loved another man. when they met again she seemed more into Bill than before when Bill left the relationship he did love Mary. when they met again he thought she looked old and had none of the past feelings he felt.

In conclusion, Hughes does a remarkable job of showing how time can change people and their perspective about other people, using techniques such as different sentence structure and acute character descriptions. This insight helps reveal how Mary went from feeling distant from Bill to having feelings for him, while contrarily, Bill went from loving Mary to feeling indifferent towards her. Time can have a great effect on people that even relationships cannot withstand.

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