Madam And Her Madam, Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis

"Madam And Her Madam" by Langston Hughes delves into themes of labor, inequality, and the complex relationships between employers and domestic workers. Through vivid narrative and a touch of irony, Hughes explores the power dynamics and emotional intricacies of the domestic service industry.

Madam And Her Madam

I worked for a woman,
She wasn't mean--
But she had a twelve-room
House to clean.
Had to get breakfast,
Dinner, and supper, too--
Then take care of her children
When I got through.
Wash, iron, and scrub,
Walk the dog around--
It was too much,
Nearly broke me down.
I said, Madam,
Can it be
You trying to make a
Pack-horse out of me?
She opened her mouth.
She cried, Oh, no!
You know, Alberta,
I love you so!
I said, Madam,
That may be true--
But I'll be dogged
If I love you!

Critical Analysis

"Madam And Her Madam" offers a glimpse into the experiences of domestic workers and the challenges they face within the context of their employment. The poem touches on themes of labor exploitation, power dynamics, and the emotional toll of the domestic service industry.

The narrative details the demanding tasks the speaker performs throughout the day, from preparing meals to taking care of children and performing household chores. The description of these responsibilities highlights the physical and emotional labor that domestic workers undertake.

The speaker's question, "Madam, / Can it be / You trying to make a / Pack-horse out of me?" reveals the speaker's recognition of the excessive workload and the exploitation that comes with it. The metaphor of a "pack-horse" emphasizes the burden placed on the speaker.

Madam's response, "You know, Alberta, / I love you so!" showcases the complexity of the employer-employee relationship. While Madam expresses affection, it is juxtaposed with the challenging and overwhelming expectations placed on the speaker.

The concluding lines, "But I'll be dogged / If I love you!" add a touch of irony to the poem. The speaker's refusal to reciprocate Madam's love reflects the power dynamics and the emotional distance created by the unequal nature of their relationship.

"Madam And Her Madam" skillfully portrays the emotional and physical toll of domestic work while also highlighting the complexities of the connections formed within this context.


"Madam And Her Madam" by Langston Hughes offers a glimpse into the life of a domestic worker, highlighting the demanding tasks and emotional challenges they face. The poem explores the power dynamics and emotional intricacies of the employer-employee relationship in the context of domestic service.

Themes of the Poem

  • Labor and Exploitation: The poem addresses the themes of labor exploitation and the physical and emotional toll of domestic work.
  • Power Dynamics: The power dynamics between the employer and the domestic worker are explored through the portrayal of the demanding tasks and the emotional complexities.
  • Emotional Complexity: The poem delves into the emotional intricacies of the relationships formed within the context of domestic service, including both affection and resentment.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Narrative: The poem's narrative structure provides a detailed account of the speaker's daily tasks and thoughts, allowing readers to empathize with their experiences.
  • Metaphor: The metaphor of a "pack-horse" is employed to illustrate the excessive burden placed on the speaker and the exploitation they endure.


  • Overwhelm and Fatigue: The poem conveys the speaker's sense of being overwhelmed and nearly "broken down" due to the excessive workload.
  • Complex Emotions: The juxtaposition of Madam's affection and the speaker's refusal to reciprocate reflects the complex emotions inherent in their relationship.


  • Metaphoric Language: The poem employs metaphors such as "pack-horse" to convey the emotional and physical weight of the speaker's responsibilities.
  • Dialogue: The use of dialogue between the speaker and Madam adds authenticity to the poem and highlights the differing perspectives of the two characters.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm and Flow: The poem's rhythmic structure enhances the flow of the narrative, contributing to the poem's realistic and empathetic tone.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration in phrases like "Walk the dog around" adds a rhythmic quality to the lines.
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