Tableau By Countee Cullen: Poem Analysis

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Those who challenge social norms are seldom met with open arms. Most of the time, any who dare oppose the expectations of society are met with consternation and condemnation. The same can be said when it comes to societal views on racism and slavery. Countee Cullen, an early 20th-century poet, depicted the displeasure that formed in response to those fighting the social acceptance of racism in his poem “Tableau”. A society cannot change or evolve without people willing to walk against the current and, at times, defy said society’s foundations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Tableau” as I believe it portrays the essence of courage our society would need, and still needs, to overcome the stigma of racial inequality. Cullen’s short poem tells…show more content…
The title itself refers to the scene it generates. The poem begins by introducing the main subjects (Cullen, 1-4). Describing the white boy as the golden splendor of the day and the black as the sable pride of night further emphasized the importance of their color in the scene. To some, a black and white boy walking together may not seem significant. By pooling our attention to their color in this way, we better understand the significance of their contrasting skin color. That significance is further understood when we realize the effect their walking together is having on those around them (Cullen, 5-8). Moving together amid the eyes and whispers of denunciation set a tone of social unrest and contributes to the theme of courage. In a society unwelcoming to their friendship, the black and white boy are displaying a great deal of courage walking together. Something they may be ignorant to the significance of, as stated in the poem, yet the courageous display is not missed by the readers (Cullen, 8-12). The theme of resistance is also developed as the two boys are resisting society expectations. This resistance may be nothing more than the result of childhood innocence and could one day be snuffed out by a society of strong segregation, but the togetherness depicted may also be a fruit of centuries of resistance. The lightning and thunder described in the poem introduces another interesting parallel like black and white at the beginning of the poem. Whether there is any correlation between the boys and the thunder/lightning is open for speculation. Regardless, the thunder and lightning imagery helps establish the shocking nature that is boys of difference races walking hand in
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