Langston Hughes short story “Early Autumn” demonstrates how distance and time can heal a broken heart. The main character Bill illustrates his distance from Mary showing that he has moved on with his life and relationship. The symbolism in Langston Hughes short story “Early Autumn” reveals the coldness and distance Bill has towards his and Mary’s once relationship. Hughes writes, “It was late afternoon. Nearly sunset. Cold. ” (Hughes, n. d. , para 4) is a perfect example of Bill’s and Mary’s lost relationship.
The sunset symbolizes the darkness and coldness in Bill and Mary’s now relationship. Bill is unable to see anything other than a casual friendship with Mary. The coldness has moved in and fall has packed her bags and winter has now arrived to take up residence. The trees are bare and lifeless, it resembles how Bill feels towards the relationship him and Mary once shared, he is emotionless almost lifeless towards Mary. For Bill the darkness is so thick he is unable to see anything in front of him.
This woman standing before him may have been someone he once knew a long time ago but she is now someone he no longer recognizes. It’s like the grim reaper had made his appearance taking any life and happiness that had been for Bill and Mary’s once relationship. For Bill that part of his life had been buried and laid to rest a long time ago. The handshake symbolizes the finality of the once relationship for Bill. Mary still clings to the hope that Bill has feelings for her upon seeing him again (“Unconsciously, she lifted her face as though wanting a kiss, but he held out his hand. Hughes, n. d. , para 3).
Bill extends his hand to Mary almost instantly severing any idea of romanticism that Mary could have possibly had. Bill extends his hand to Mary almost instantly severing any idea of romanticism that Mary could have possibly had. Bill’s almost business like handshake shows that he doesn’t foster the same ideas or cling to the same memories that Mary does. Bill treats Mary as a colleague, not someone he one shared such an intimate part of himself with. He buried his feelings for Mary the day she gave up on him and their relationship.
He now only sees Mary as an acquaintance. The unknown people walking around symbolize how Bill and Mary really no longer know each other. Standing talking to Mary in the hustle and bustle of the New York City streets, (“A great many people went past them through the park. People they didn’t know” Hughes, n. d. , para 4). Throughout the years that past and the lives they have lived people have weaved in and out. They now both lived two separate lives; Bills life was full of happiness and Mary’s life full of regret.
But standing there on the street that day they were strangers themselves. Many years passing just like the people passing by on the busy city street. Even though knowing each other, sharing stories and lives with each other once upon a time, having an intimacy knowing each other in and out. Distance, time and experience have made them different people almost foreign to each other in a way. They are no longer the people they once knew now they are strangers much like the people weaving in and out on the busy streets.
The use of Bill’s wife’s name symbolizes his happiness with his marriage and his wife. Bill has made a life for himself and is a very happy man. He tells Mary of this life and of his family with such enthusiasm and pride that you can tell he is right where he wants to be. When talking with Mary at one point Bill mentions his wife by name, Mary on the other hand seems to forget her that she husband. Not once during her and Bill’s conversation does she mention him by name. (“Sure,” he replied. “You and your husband must have dinner with my family some night.
Any night. Lucille and I’d love to have you. ” Hughes, n. d. , para 7). Bill invites Mary and her husband to his house for dinner and calls his wife by name. Saying (“Lucille and I’d love to have you”. ) Bill added a hidden intimacy for his wife by calling her by name. Letting Mary know then and there he loved his wife, by stating her name brought a reality to the fantasy for Mary. Ending and crushing any hope Mary may had clung to. Bill was happy and enjoyed his life; never once regretting his decision’s. Whereas Mary will live with regret for the rest of her life.
I truly enjoyed this short story; I think a majority of people can relate. For me it was the lost love or the one who got away. I think that everyone in some way has had this happen to them I know that I have. I can relate to Bill, I can understand how he loved someone so much and they could just move on so easily without so much as a single word. Having your trust broken and it taking years before you can trust someone again is a long and painful road. I think love and relationships are something a lot of people take for granted now a days.
Fighting over petty things, putting material possessions over human worth seems to be the norm for most relationships now a days. Fighting with someone and instead of talking it over or working it out; people holding grudges or moving on without so much as a single word uttered. But for Bill it worked out he found love, true love. I think for me the story showed that sometimes it takes a couple of wrong ones until your find the right one. To not let one bad experience jade you for the rest of your life because at the end of it all there is always a silver lining.
Courtney from Study Moose
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