Mercredi 11 mai 3 11 /05 /Mai 22:18

I-/ The Poem

Madam and Her Madam

I worked for a woman,
She wasn't mean--
But she had a twelve-room
House to clean.

Had to get breakfast,
Dinner, and supper, too--
Then take care of her children
When I got through.

Wash, iron, and scrub,
Walk the dog around--
It was too much,
Nearly broke me down.

I said, Madam,
Can it be
You trying to make a
Pack-horse out of me?

She opened her mouth.
She cried, Oh, no!
You know, Alberta,
I love you so!

I said, Madam,
That may be true--
But I'll be dogged
If I love you!

We don't know when this poem was precisely written. But, the first story where Alberta K. Johnson (an important character created by Langston Hughes) is present was published in 1942. This poem is Madam and the Number Runner. Therefore, this poem was written after 1942.
hence in 1943...

 

II-/ The Title

The title of the poem is Madam and her Madam. Consequently, we can suppose that the poem deals with two characters : a rich woman and her servant. To explain the title, two answers are credible.
Firstly, "Madam" is perhaps the rich woman and "her Madam" is so the servant because she works for the woman ("Madam") and consequently she's her servant and "her Madam".
But, on the contrary, "Madam" is maybe the servant and "her Madam" the rich woman because "Madam" works for "her Madam".This seems to be the most suitable choice for we have many poems entitled "Madam and.."

This poem is included in the section "Madam to you" and the term "Madam" is in each title of the poems of this section like Madam and the Rent Man or Madam and the Fortune Teller for instance.

 

III-/ Time and Setting

A) Time :
In Madam and her Madam, we can see that the speaker does a flashblack (l. 1 "I worked for a woman") to tell his past. And in the flashback,  Madam talks and moves (l.17 "She opened her mouth"). So the poem is set in two different times, the time she speaks and the time of the story.

B) Setting :
In the poem, we don't have the name of a country or town. However, one of the women is rich. Therefore, the scene is set most probably in a luxurious house in America, maybe in the South.

 

IV-/ The Speaker

This poem is a first-person narration (l.1 "I worked for a woman"). According to the first line, we can understand that the speaker is the servant. She tells of her life when she worked for the rich woman. We learn the servant's name in the line 19, her name is Alberta. So, Alberta is the speaker in Madam and her Madam. But, if we look the other poems of the section "Madam to you", we can see that Alberta is present in several poems like Madam's Past History, Madam's Calling Cards and Madam and the Census Man.
Thanks to these poems, we can know the complete name of Alberta, it's Alberta K. Johnson.

 

V-/ Structure

The poem is composed of six stanzas, each composed of four lines. Lines two and four of each stanzas rhyme, "Can it be" (line 14) and "Pack-horse out to me" (line 16) for instance. The poem is setup in four line stanzas. Lines two and four of each stanza rhyme. In the first stanza Hughes uses a ironic tone 

Stanza 1 :
I worked for a woman,
She wasn't mean--
But she had a twelve-room
House to clean.

Langston Hughes uses  an ironic tone to explain that the servant has a difficult, harsh work with the "-" and the lines 2,3 and 4.
There is a rhyme, "mean" (l.2) and "clean" (l.4).

Stanza 2 :
Had to get breakfast,
Dinner, and Supper, too--
Then take care of her children
When I got through.

Langston Hugues continues to show the hard work of the servant like "Had to get breakfast" (l.5) and "Dinner and Supper,too" (l.6).
There is one rhyme, "too" (l.6) and "through" (l.8).

Stanza 3 :
Wash, iron, and scrub,
Walk the dog around--
It was too much,
Nearly broke me down.

Langston Hughes reinforces his point of view with an enumeration of the servant's choirs, "Wash, iron, and scrub" (l.9). Moreover, he uses also "too" (l.11), so the work is more tiring.
There is the rhyme, "around" (l.10) and "down" (l.12).

Stanza 4 :
I said, Madam,
Can it be
You trying to make a
Pack-horse out of me?

The servant asks the woman "I said, Madam" (l.13) because the work is so difficult for one person so the servant would  like a home help.
There is one rhyme, "be" (l.14) and "me" (l.16).
 He adds the imagery of a pack of horse (line 16), by which he describes the workload of the worker 
Stanza 5 :
She opened her mouth.
She cried, Oh, no!
You know, Alberta,
I love you so!

The answer of Madam adds to the dramatic situation, it's the reason why Langston Hughes uses "She cried" (l.18) and "I love you so!" (l.20).
The speaker changes because Madam talks for three lines (l.18, 19 and 20) and she tells the name of the servant, Alberta.
There is a rhyme, "no!" (l.18) and "so!" (l.20). This rhyme is interesting because the two sentences "Oh, no!" and "I love you so!" are also two exclamative sentences. In the fifth stanza we have a change of speakers, till now we have heard the worker, but now the madam speaks. Hughes chooses words like “cried”, and “I love you so”, to add to the drama of the madam speaking. 

Stanza 6 :
I said, Madam,
That may be true--
But I'll be dogged
If I love you! 

Langston Hughes uses again a ironic tone with the lines 22, 23 and 24 like at the beginning of the poem.
There are few repetitions. First and foremost, "I said, Madam" (l.21) like at the line 13. Then, "I love you" (l.24) with "I love you so!" (l.20).

 

VI-/ Themes

The themes of Madam and her Madam have the work (the important housework of Alberta), the social gap between the servant and the rich (the behaviour of the rich woman) and a few of humor with the irony (the discussion between Alberta and Madam) using by Langston Hughes.

 The poem is meant to emphasize the differences in perception between the servant and her “employer”. It is symbolic in showing the traces of slavery that were still present in the mid-20th century. Although she is not recognized as such, the maid, Alberta, is treated much more as a slave than a house worker. She is probably paid very little and treated with very little respect. This can be inferred from the last two stanzas 

Par langston-and-us.over-blog.com
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