Sometimes, when people ask us how we are, we would want to bawl our eyes out and say “I am not fine”. But there are also days when we can happily say that we are fine. Such is life with all its ups and downs.
In the poem ‘Life is Fine’, Langston Hughes deals with a darker theme of taking one’s own life. The first stanza starts with the narrator sitting down by a river bank and trying to figure out something. It is clear that the poet is worried and is trying to think about it. When he can’t find answers for his problems, he throws himself into the river. This comes as a surprise to a reader at first when one doesn’t know the theme of the poem.
But instead of drowning, the narrator comes up. He hollers and cries for help. The narrator reasons out that he didn’t die because it was too cold to bear. He seems to have backed out at the last moment. He repeatedly says it was because the water was cold as if trying to console himself.
I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn’t a-been so cold
I might’ve sunk and died.
But it was Cold in that water! It was cold!
The narrator tries to kill himself for the second time when he is going up in an elevator. He plans to throw himself out of the elevator. Also, readers come to know the reason for his suicide attempts. He is missing someone to whom he refers as ‘baby’.
But he doesn’t jump off the elevator because it is too high. It is quite ironic how the narrator is more concerned about the physical pain caused by death. Readers also come to understand the vulnerable mindset of the narrator. It is obvious the narrator is suffering and is in pain.
I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn’t a-been so high
I might’ve jumped and died.
In the concluding stanzas, the narrator complies with reality and decides to go on living. He decides to live simply because he was born to live. He could have died in place of his beloved, but he can’t because he was destined to live his life.
So since I’m still here livin’,
I guess I will live on.
I could’ve died for love—
But for livin’ I was born
While he continues to live on, he might suffer and cry. He may have more painful experiences, but he is resolute to live. He is earnest to live. He assures his beloved that he will live and not die.
Though you may hear me holler,
And you may see me cry—
I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
If you gonna see me die.
He ends the poem with the line,
Life with all its pain and suffering may appear fine when we are resolute to live on. We may go through hard times, but it may not appear hard when we live on. When we grow old, we understand what to cling onto in life and what to leave behind. Thus, this poem which starts with a gloomy theme ends with an optimistic message that life is fine as long as we continue to live. So, let’s live.
Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!