Arna Bontemps- A Black Man Talks of Reaping: Dan Reiser B5

Arna Bontemps, author of
"A Black Man Talks of Reaping", was born in 1902, and he grew into a young, prosperous teacher in order to support his large family. His major influences involved not following his father as an apprentice to mason work, and once he became married in 1926, upon having six children too, Arna began his forty years of work as a teacher, poet, and father (Arna Bontemps 1). In "A Black Man Talks of Reaping", Arna has given the reader a mixture of his own life events, the current day working standards for colored men, according to the regulations of the early 1900's, and messages/lessons of the pain some men have endured from racial segregation. For the time period Arna wrote this poem, the modernism aspects of writing are comparable greatly with that of the characteristics of writing in "A Black Man Talks of Reaping".

From the beginning, immediately the poem describes the work effort of the common in first six lines, and Arna focuses on the hard work of a black man as his tool to mold together the reader's mindset into the harsh conditions of these workers. These six lines indicate the work of years, not only the days, of one man's work that can be accounted for as nothing once time has quickly past by, according to lines 7-8: "But for my reaping only what the hand can hold at once is all that I can show" (Bontemps, lines 7-8). The modernism connection with these two lines is the binding of the work of the common man and the purpose of the common man. The purpose comes with the man's disgrace of proving nothing from his work, but the work effort may be greater than one man could ever describe: "I scattered seed enough to plant the land in rows from Canada to Mexico" (Bontemps, lines 5-6).

The most important message from the poem, "
A Black Man Talks of Reaping", is when Arna describes how the yields of orchard fields are now gathered by his nephews, the next generation of innocent, poor workers: "Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields my brother' sons are gathering stalk and root." (Bontemps, lines 9-10). This line is believed to be the true connection of the poet, Arna Bontemps, with his father's orders, and how Arna broke away from these orders to proceed in the life he wanted to be a part of (Arna Bontemps 1). However, the racial problems of the early 1900's has left these children, or more importantly the next generation, with the same harsh work as the generation before them. As time has proven, the next generations stands a greater chance of improvement than the generation before them, which is one aspect of this poem that can be understood after finishing it.

Arna shed light on the situation in lines 11-12, when he explains the improvement of vast difference between the generations as a gap of the ones who plant and the ones who are fed: "Small wonder then my children glean in fields they have not sown, and feed on bitter fruits." (Bontemps, lines 11-12). Modernism has greatly influenced the improvement of society since the early 1800's, small examples in writing styles have given us stories of these improvements. In
A Black Man Talks of Reaping", Arna's modernism influence sheds light on a situation that has been given an incredibly small improvement, which still shows a great resentment to discrimination in the work force. The children may now have only a small improvement, but it's just the beginning of a "snowball effect" that will conform into a large improvement as time passes by.

In ways, this story is can parallel in common with the life Arna Bontemps. Arna was born the son of a hard-working, less fortunate brick mason, but once Arna was old enough, he gave himself the choice to go against his father. His father saw this change, and sent him to a white-based private college to do his studies (Arna Bontemps 1). Now as time has past since his father's hard work, Arna now teaches and has much greater work inside brick buildings, which can be compared to the situation of the main character in the poem with his nephews and sons. The "planter to eater" situation is a good comparison of Arna and his father.

Modernism is a reflection of the improvements of society and mankind, and Arna Bontemps has tied together his life, his thoughts on racial segregation and the common man's work force, and improving of society with the aspects of modernism. Through life's great challenges and the story of a hard-working, discriminated against black man's ideas at work, Arna Bontemps has given the period of modernism writing a wonderful outlook on the situation of man in society, work, and heart in "
A Black Man Talks of Reaping".

Work Cited

"Arna Bontemps Biography." Famous Poets and Poems - Read and Enjoy Poetry. Google. Web. 02 May 2010.

Bontemps, Arna. "A Black Man Talks of Reaping." Chickenbones. BCP Digital Printing, 1 May 2009. Web. 20 Apr. 2010.