Doorknobs By Langston Hughes

"Doorknobs" Langston Hughes is considered by many readers to be the most
significant black poet of the twentieth century. Except for a few examples, all
his poems are about social injustice in America. The somber tone of his writing
often reflected his mood. Race relations were present in almost his whole
career, following him from his first poem to his last. The poem "Doorknobs"
was written in 1961 after his subpoena to appear before Senator McCarthy for
subversive activities. Although many other poems by Hughes deal with prejudice,
race, or politics, "Doorknobs" deals with life itself. Hughes’ anger over
the political attacks are seen on many of his poems. Hughes’ "Doorknob"
describes a child who seems to be afraid of life and afraid of the adults in his
life... By the end of the poem this child is now an adult himself who appears to
be insecure, and perhaps, afraid of life itself. This man portrays a sad,
non-confident, scared life as we can see on the lines 1 to 3. We experience
first hand the lack of control, the terrorizing feelings this door holds for
this child: The simple silly terror of a doorknob on a door that turns to let in
life From lines 4 to 10, we can assume that we are reading of a child who is
terrorized of the grownups that live with him; perhaps he is an abused child: on
two feet standing, walking, talking, wearing dress or trousers, maybe drunk or
maybe sober, maybe smiling, laughing, happy, maybe tangled in the terror of a
yesterday past grandpa Lines 11 to 15 reinforce the terror this child is feeling
and carrying with him. It is apparent that the child is experiencing some kind
of abuse, either mental or physical: when the door from out there opened into
here where I, antenna, recipient of your coming, received the talking image of
the simple silly terror From lines 16-25 Hughes repeats the first stanza of the
poem with minor changes to the order of t the words; this perhaps is now when
the child is now remembering his past. Another interpretation is that when the
child became a grownup instead of being afraid of the adults in his life, he is
afraid now of life itself, and death. of a door that opens at the turning of a
knob to let in life walking, talking, standing wearing dress or trousers, drunk
or maybe sober, smiling, laughing, happy, or tangled in the terror of a
yesterday past grandpa not of our own doing. "Doorknobs" is a sad poem; the
poem deals with the struggle and search for identity, and a struggle of the
individual vs. the Universe. The mood is fear, and perhaps terror of his
surroundings. At the end, we are left with the feeling that the child went on
living his life in terror and afraid of everything that surrounded him even
after becoming an adult.