Study Guide

Beale Street Love Gender

By Langston Hughes

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Though it might seem like the man in "Beale Street Love" has the upper hand – it's his fist that is doing all the crushing and blackening – Clorinda, the female, has something to say before the end of the poem. She has the last word, and that last word is a command. So while we're reading a poem that is apparently about violence against women, the gender dynamics aren't as clear-cut as we might think.

Questions About Gender

  1. What gender do you think the speaker of this poem is? What makes you think that?
  2. Do you think this poem conforms to stereotypical gender roles? Is there a way in which it breaks from them?   
  3. Do you think this poem could be about something other than a battered woman and her abusive partner? Or are the gender dynamics in this poem pretty clear cut?            
  4. Think about what you know of gender roles in 1926, when "Beale Street Blues" was published. Do you think those roles are different from what they are today? How does that affect our understanding of the poem?

Chew on This

At the end of the poem, Clorinda flips the stereotypical gender roles on their head by issuing her partner a command.

Even though Clorinda commands her romantic partner at the end of the poem, she still lacks power. In fact, that command represents the true power her partner has over her; he has so much control that he manages to manipulate Clorinda into asking for abuse.

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