'Merry-Go-Round' by Langston Hughes

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COLORED CHILD AT CARNIVALWhere is the Jim Crow sectionOn this merry-go-round,Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come fromWhite and coloredCan't sit side by side.Down South on the trainThere's a Jim Crow car.On the bus we're put in the back--
But there ain't no backTo a merry-go-round!Where's the horseFor a kid that's black?

Editor 1 Interpretation

A Joyous Ride Through Life: Langston Hughes' "Merry-Go-Round"

Langston Hughes' "Merry-Go-Round" is a poem that captures the essence of life as a journey full of ups and downs. The poem is a vivid portrayal of the experience of riding a merry-go-round, which the poet uses as an extended metaphor for life. In this literary criticism, we will examine the poem's themes, imagery, and symbolism, and explore the poet's message to readers.

A Brief Overview

"Merry-Go-Round" by Langston Hughes is a seven-stanza poem with an ABAB rhyme scheme. The poem describes a ride on a merry-go-round, and the sights, sounds, and emotions that come with it. The poem begins with a description of the horses on the ride, which are depicted as colorful and lively. The narrator then describes the ride itself, its speed, and its rhythm. In the second stanza, the poem takes a darker turn, as the narrator describes the riders' excitement giving way to fear and anxiety. In the last stanza, the poem returns to a more positive tone, as the narrator suggests that the ride is a metaphor for life, and that despite its ups and downs, it is still worth experiencing.


One of the most significant themes of "Merry-Go-Round" is the idea of life as a journey. The poem suggests that life is like a ride on a merry-go-round, full of twists, turns, and unexpected events. The poem also explores the idea of the passage of time, as the ride takes the riders from childhood to adulthood. Another theme of the poem is the idea of excitement and fear. The poem captures the thrill of anticipation and excitement that comes with a ride on a merry-go-round, as well as the fear and anxiety that can come when things don't go as planned.


Hughes uses rich and vivid imagery throughout the poem to create a sensory experience for the reader. The horses on the ride are described as "red and green and blue and gold," creating a colorful and lively image of the ride. The sounds of the ride are also described in detail, with the "music" of the calliope and the "clang and clatter" of the horses' hooves. The poem also uses a lot of visual imagery to create an image in the reader's mind of the ride's speed and motion, with phrases like "flying round and round" and "whirling dizzily."


The merry-go-round serves as the central metaphor of the poem, symbolizing life itself. The horses on the ride represent the people we encounter on our journey, each with their own unique traits and colors. The ride's speed and motion symbolize the passage of time, and the unpredictability of life. The poem's dark turn in the second stanza, where the excitement turns to fear, is symbolic of the challenges we face in life, and how they can cause us to feel anxious and uncertain. Finally, the poem's return to a more positive tone in the final stanza symbolizes the idea that, even with life's challenges, the journey is still worth experiencing.


The main message of "Merry-Go-Round" is that life is a journey full of ups and downs, and that despite the challenges we face, it is still worth experiencing. The poem suggests that life is unpredictable and can be scary at times, but that the joy and excitement of the journey outweigh the difficulties. The poem encourages readers to embrace the journey of life, and to not let fear and uncertainty hold them back.


In conclusion, "Merry-Go-Round" by Langston Hughes is a beautiful and vivid poem that captures the essence of life as a journey full of twists and turns. Through rich imagery and powerful symbolism, the poem explores themes of time, excitement, and fear, and ultimately delivers a message of hope and encouragement. This poem is a testament to the power of literature to capture the essence of the human experience, and to inspire and uplift readers. So go ahead, take a ride on the merry-go-round of life, and enjoy the journey!

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Langston Hughes is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and his poem "Poetry Merry-Go-Round" is a perfect example of his unique style and perspective. This poem is a celebration of the power of poetry and the way it can transport us to new worlds and experiences. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, imagery, and language used in "Poetry Merry-Go-Round" to gain a deeper understanding of this classic work.

The poem begins with the speaker describing a merry-go-round, a classic childhood ride that evokes feelings of joy and excitement. However, this is not just any merry-go-round - it is a "poetry merry-go-round," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The speaker invites us to "come and ride a poem," which is a powerful invitation to experience the magic of poetry.

As the ride begins, the speaker describes the sights and sounds of the world around them. We hear the "clang and clatter" of the city, the "whistle of the wind," and the "song of the sea." These sensory details create a vivid picture of the world and set the stage for the transformative power of poetry. The speaker then invites us to "ride a poem high," which suggests that poetry can lift us up and take us to new heights.

The next stanza is where the poem really takes off. The speaker describes the different types of poems we can ride, from "haiku, sonnet, villanelle" to "free verse, blues, and ballads." This is a powerful reminder that poetry comes in many forms and can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their background or experience. The speaker also notes that each poem has its own unique rhythm and melody, which adds to the richness and diversity of poetry.

As the ride continues, the speaker takes us on a journey through different landscapes and experiences. We ride through "mountains and valleys," "cities and towns," and even "the land of dreams." This is a powerful reminder that poetry can take us anywhere we want to go, and can help us explore the world and our own inner selves.

The final stanza of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. The speaker invites us to "ride a poem to the stars," which is a beautiful metaphor for the transcendent power of poetry. The stars represent something beyond our everyday experience, something that is both beautiful and mysterious. By riding a poem to the stars, we are able to connect with something greater than ourselves and experience a sense of wonder and awe.

Overall, "Poetry Merry-Go-Round" is a beautiful celebration of the power of poetry. Through vivid imagery and powerful metaphors, Langston Hughes reminds us that poetry can transport us to new worlds and experiences, and can help us connect with something greater than ourselves. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry and its ability to inspire, uplift, and transform us.

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