Wealth, Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis

"Wealth" by Langston Hughes explores the concept of true wealth through the lens of goodness, kindness, and love. The poem contrasts material wealth and power with the inherent value of virtuous qualities, emphasizing the enduring grandeur of acts of kindness and love as compared to the temporal might of kings and external riches.

Wealth

From Christ to Ghandi
Appears this truth
St. Francis of Assisi
Proves it, too:
Goodness becomes grandeur
Surpassing might of kings.
Halos of kindness
Brighter shine
Than crowns of gold,
And brighter
Than rich diamonds
Sparkles
The simple dew
Of love.

Critical Analysis

"Wealth" presents a meditative exploration of wealth as understood through the lens of virtue and kindness. The poem highlights the idea that the true measure of wealth lies in the intrinsic value of goodness, kindness, and love, which transcend material possessions and temporal power.

The poem references historical figures such as Christ, Gandhi, and St. Francis of Assisi as exemplars of the truth being conveyed. These figures are known for their emphasis on compassion, humility, and selflessness, reinforcing the theme that virtuous qualities are of utmost significance.

The assertion that "Goodness becomes grandeur / Surpassing might of kings" reflects the idea that acts of goodness and kindness hold a higher status and more lasting impact than the transient power of kings and rulers.

The imagery of "Halos of kindness / Brighter shine / Than crowns of gold" emphasizes the radiant and lasting nature of kindness and love. The comparison of kindness to a halo and crowns of gold underscores the enduring nature of virtuous deeds.

The concluding lines, "And brighter / Than rich diamonds / Sparkles / The simple dew / Of love," further emphasize the idea that the most precious and valuable qualities are rooted in love and simple acts of care and compassion.

"Wealth" conveys a message of the lasting significance of kindness and love, transcending material possessions and power, and highlighting the profound worth of virtuous qualities.

Summary

"Wealth" by Langston Hughes explores the concept of true wealth as found in acts of goodness, kindness, and love. The poem contrasts the enduring value of these virtues with the fleeting nature of material wealth and power. Through historical references and vivid imagery, the poem conveys the message that the most valuable riches lie in virtuous qualities that transcend time and circumstance.

Themes of the Poem

  • True Wealth: The poem examines the notion that true wealth is found in goodness, kindness, and love, rather than material possessions or power.
  • Virtue Over Power: The poem emphasizes the superiority of virtuous qualities in terms of their lasting impact and grandeur compared to temporal power and might.
  • Enduring Value: The poem underscores the enduring and radiant nature of virtuous acts and qualities, which continue to shine brightly over time.

Stylistic Analysis

  • Historical References: The poem incorporates references to Christ, Gandhi, and St. Francis of Assisi to underscore the universality of the message across different historical and cultural contexts.
  • Imagery: The imagery of "Halos of kindness" and "crowns of gold" creates visual comparisons that reinforce the theme of virtuous qualities holding greater worth.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Appreciation of Virtue: The poem conveys a sense of appreciation and admiration for the virtues of goodness, kindness, and love.
  • Elevation of Kindness: The poem elevates acts of kindness and compassion to a level of grandeur, emphasizing their significance.

Language

  • Comparison: The poem employs comparisons between virtues and material riches to highlight the superiority of virtuous qualities.
  • Imaginative Language: The use of imagery, such as "Halos of kindness" and "sparkles / The simple dew / Of love," evokes visual and emotional depth.

Sound Devices

  • Rhythmic Language: The poem's rhythmic structure enhances the contemplative and meditative quality of the verses.
  • Repetition: The repetition of phrases, such as "From Christ to Ghandi" and "And brighter," creates a rhythmic flow and emphasizes key concepts.
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