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Summary

Stanza 3 Summary Page 1

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 8-10

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.

  • First of all, the speaker probably doesn't literally mean tomorrow.
  • This poem works mostly by extended metaphor, and the "tomorrow" here is really alluding to a future time when blacks and whites will be equal.
  • This equality is expressed through the speaker's assertion that he, too, will "be at the table" the next time they have a party.

Lines 11-12

Nobody'll dare
Say to me,

  • These lines continue in the same vein as the previous three, wherein the speaker imagines a future in which he'll be treated with the same kind of respect with which white people treat each other.
  • In this case, the emphasis is even a little stronger – not only is he present at the table, but he will have some control over what people do and don't say to him (i.e., he will command respect).

Lines 13-14

"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

  • Ha. So no one will dare tell him to eat in the kitchen anymore. Progress!
  • And, if we're thinking metaphorically (and it's poetry, so we should be), we can expand this notion just like we expanded the passage about "tomorrow."
  • Being told to eat in the kitchen is, in this case, representative of the larger problem that's being tackled in this poem – that is, the problem of racial inequality and injustice.
  • Think also about how inequality manifests (fancy word for "makes real" or "makes known") itself in our everyday lives – it's usually in the form of an unbalanced power relation. Hughes makes this even more apparent by actually "quoting" the whites who have been in power here – it makes the inequality take the form of a direct command.
  • Want more on this subject? Of course you do. Hop on over to our "Quotes" section, and we'll talk about this tidbit even more.
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