Yet Do I Marvel Theme

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Chapter Overview One element of literature shared by all literary works is a theme. A theme consists of a “insight about a topic communicated in a work” (Mays A13). While some themes are unique, there are certain themes that are common throughout many pieces of literature. An example of such a common theme is the quest for identity. As people grow up and begin to experience the world, individuality and independence become one of many priorities. Through the analysis of literary elements, literary works in genres such as poetry, fiction, and drama portray themes relating to a quest for identity. Poetry As defined, poetry is “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create…show more content…
Although Cullen suffered this fall in esteem, he is still “a pioneer in the use of the Classics in the literature of the Harlem Renaissance” (Cueva 24). Perhaps his most notable poem, “Yet Do I Marvel” marks the possibility of achieving in a quest for identity when faced with societal obstacles. Written in 1925, “Yet Do I Marvel” employs a strong use of allusion in conveying a theme. Referenced in “Yet Do I Marvel” are both Tantalus and Sisyphus, both of Greek mythological origin. In the first reference, Tantalus, son of Zeus, is punished for his crimes with eternal hunger, only to be “baited by the fickle fruit” (Cullen 6). Sisyphus, on the other hand, is punished for his crimes by being forced to eternally push a large boulder up a hill. The boulder constantly rolls back down the hill, and so Sisyphus “[struggles] up a never-ending stair” (8). In his allusions, Cullen makes the claim that, although “God is good, well-meaning, [and] kind” (1), his actions are “inscrutable” (9). It is important, however, to remember that Tantalus receives punishment for “stealing… from the gods and murdering his own son” (Fetrow 104) while Sisyphus is punished because “he attempted to usurp eternity by cheating death” (104). With this knowledge, the punishments are reasonable and the poem changes context from hopelessness in the face of racism to optimism in the face of a challenge. As Fred Fetrow states in his article, “Cullen’s Yet Do I Marvel”, “[Cullen] claims that the black poet can still… express his unique racial identity while singing his humanity” (105). Ultimately, the speaker makes the claim that, as he has not sinned like Tantalus and Sisyphus, God “[making] a poet black, and [bidding] him sing” (Cullen 14) is no punishment. The speaker finds it “curious” (13) that his situation is seen as a punishment

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