Sick Room, Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis

In "Sick Room," Langston Hughes paints a poignant and contemplative scene within the confines of a sick room. Through vivid imagery and symbolic elements, the poet delves into themes of suffering, mortality, and the delicate balance between life and death.

Sick Room

How quiet
It is in this sick room
Where on the bed
A silent woman lies between two lovers—
Life and Death,
And all three covered with a sheet of pain.

Critical Analysis

"Sick Room" creates a somber and introspective atmosphere within the confines of a room where a woman lies ill. The poem's imagery and symbolism evoke a sense of quiet contemplation, highlighting the delicate intersection between life, death, and suffering.

The opening lines, "How quiet / It is in this sick room," set the tone for the poem's reflective and hushed atmosphere, emphasizing the stillness and solemnity of the scene.

The image of a "silent woman lies between two lovers— / Life and Death" establishes a powerful juxtaposition. The woman's condition places her in a realm between the forces of life and death, symbolizing the fragile balance between the two.

The metaphor of the woman lying between "two lovers" serves as a dual reminder of the inherent connections between life and death and the inevitable nature of mortality.

The final line, "And all three covered with a sheet of pain," underscores the universal experience of suffering. The pain is described as a "sheet," suggesting its all-encompassing nature and its presence as a unifying thread connecting life, death, and the sick woman.

"Sick Room" encapsulates a moment of reflection on human vulnerability, mortality, and the profound emotional states that surround illness and death.


"Sick Room" by Langston Hughes portrays a scene in a sick room where a woman lies between the forces of Life and Death. Through evocative imagery and symbolism, the poem explores themes of suffering, mortality, and the interconnectedness of life and death.

Themes of the Poem

  • Mortality and Vulnerability: The poem delves into the fragility of human life and the vulnerability that accompanies illness and the proximity of death.
  • Balance and Interconnection: The poem highlights the delicate balance between life and death, as well as the interconnectedness of these opposing forces.
  • Suffering and Pain: The imagery of the woman and the lovers covered with a "sheet of pain" reflects the universal experience of suffering that transcends life and death.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Imagery: Vivid and evocative imagery creates a detailed and contemplative scene within the sick room.
  • Symbolism: The woman's position between "Life and Death" symbolizes the liminal space between these states and the human experience of navigating between them.


  • Contemplation: The poem conveys a sense of quiet contemplation and reflection in the face of human suffering and mortality.
  • Empathy: The depiction of suffering and pain invites readers to empathize with the woman and reflect on the broader human experience.


  • Imagery and Metaphor: The imagery of the woman positioned between "Life and Death" and the metaphor of them as "lovers" adds depth and complexity to the poem's exploration of mortality.
  • Descriptive Language: The use of descriptive language, such as "covered with a sheet of pain," conveys the emotional and physical states of the characters and the environment.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythm and Tone: The poem's rhythmic structure and somber tone contribute to the reflective mood, mirroring the hushed atmosphere of the sick room.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration in phrases like "silent woman" and "Life and Death" adds a rhythmic quality to the lines and emphasizes key concepts.

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