50-50: James Mercer Langston Hughes, the American poet was born on February 1st 1902. He was a novelist, columnist, playwright and a social activist. His fiction and poetry depicted the lives of the blacks in America, especially the working-class. However it was not just a dark and dreary portrayal as most writers do; there is struggle, joy, music and laughter. Hughes poetry tried to invoke the pride of African- American identity with its diverse culture in his people. Hughes has quoted’ “My seeking has been to explain and illuminate the Negro condition in America and obliquely that of all human kind”. He has challenged racial stereotypes, opposed social conditions and enhanced the image of the African-American community. He was called ‘people’s poet’. He served this cause till his death on May 22nd in 1967.
’50-50’ was written in the later part of Hughes’s career. This poem reveals the stark realities of life with no trappings of niceties hope and cheer. There are two speakers in the poem, one a woman and the other, man. The woman is a mournful woman with a problem. The man is an opportunist with the solution. The woman is mourning that she is all alone in the world. She is not married, has no companion, no one to hold her hand; in short she had no man. The man called as the ‘Big Boy’in the poem very bluntly says that the trouble with the woman was that she had no head. If she had head and used the mind she could have had him lifelong. But she could not have him that easily. She finds out what she had to do for that. In very simple and straight forwards words he says
He said, Share your bed—
And your money, too.
’50-50’ is a poem with 14 lines with two stanzas and three lines after the two stanzas. The first stanza is a quintet, a stanza with five lines and the second one is a sestet, a stanza with six lines. There is no particular rhyme scheme. Alliteration, where the same letter is used continuously used in a line is employed. ‘All alone’ and ‘Big Boy’ are the alliterations. Anaphora, where a word or expression is repeated in the poem is seen in the second and third lines.
Ain’t got nobody to share my bed,
Ain’t got nobody to hold my hand—
Hyperbole is employed in the first line ‘I’m all alone in this world’. To state is she is alone she says that she was the only one in the world. The themes in the poem are loneliness, greed and sex. It seems to be a poem of loneliness of a woman and her dilemma. But she highlights her loneliness by saying she has no one to share her bed. There is a sexual urge in her and that is reciprocated by the Big Boy. He was willing to share the bed with her but it does not come cheap. She has to share her money too. Seeing the title ’50-50’ it is obvious that the woman will have to give away half of what entire she owns. This is where we see greed as the theme of this poem; the man was greedy for the money and gave a solution keeping only that in mind. This poem reflects the ways of the society, the reality, where relations were around sexual desires and money. Love sincerity and honesty is no longer the foundation of a relationship.