Langston Hughes uses subtle yet powerful imagery to illustrate the plight of a black family in a white dominated society in his one-act play “Soul Gone Home”.
The pennies on Ronnie’s eyes mentioned at the beginning and end of the play refer to an ancient custom and also to the poverty that can blind one in a capitalist world. Wealth is only mentioned in a monetary sense, “When I had money, ain’t I fed you?” (Hughes, 1271) and “you said you ain’t got no money for milk and eggs” (Hughes, 1272). Wealth of a spiritual or emotional nature is never mentioned.
As Kolin and Curley point out in “Hughes Soul Gone Home”, color is also a reoccurring symbol throughout the play (1274). Ronnie’s description is a “dark boy in a torn white shirt” (Hughes, 1271). “He rolls his big white eyes” (Hughes, 1271) at his mother. Even the milk and eggs mentioned as lacking in his diet are a subtle reference to the white society that has stunted his growth as a black man. The “Men in the white coats” (Hughes, 1273) who carry Ronnie’s body away are yet another figurative expression of a white society claiming another black victim.