LangstonHughes’ “Early Autumn” Theme Analysis

LangstonHughes’ short story involves the coincidental meeting of what isviewed to be a former couple, and what Hughes &amp Miller (15) termsas the “re-emerging emotions” of heartbreak and desperate femalecharacter, Mary. The short story’s main theme is that of love. Thesetting of the short story reveals an unspecified time consideringthe breakup between Bill and Mary occurred as a result of a minordisagreement. To put into perspective the fact that Bill is marriedwith two kids and Mary with three means that it can be assumed thatmany years have passed after the breakup, and their coincidentalmeeting between the two characters, resulted in re-emergence of theirformer love.

Thetheme of betrayal and breakup is shown through a flashback to thedays when the two, Bill and Mary, were still a couple and thereafter.This segment, just like the rest of the short story, reflected whatwas happening, what happened before, what thoughts Mary had. Theflashback is a summary of telling the reader the kind of love the twohad until trivial matter came in between them and the resultingbreakup (Hughes &amp Miller 13). The conflict between Bill and Marywas caused by something unimportant, which also reveals to the readerthat their relationship was not the steadiest of relationships tobegin with. The speaker continues to inform the reader that Mary wasat fault to rush and marry someone else whom “she believed sheloved”. Bill on the other hand was left feeling remorseful andresentful towards women. The review of the breakup went on to informus of their characters.

Bill’sfeelings towards the women after his breakup with Mary are anepiphany of what he was before and after. Bill appeared to havevalued his relationship with Mary, and when their unnecessary breakuphappened, strong contrasts occurred in within Bill’s character,both emotionally and mentally. The feeling of betrayal meant thatafter the breakup, Bill turned out to be bitter towards women. Hughes&amp Miller (20) noted that it was a result of being let down byMary. This was also shown when he went ahead almost immediately andreplaced her with someone else. The cause of their conflict is thusshown to be Bill’s ex-girlfriend, Mary. The cause of their breakupsuggests a contrast between Bill and Mary’s of their relationshipbefore, and the theme of betrayal of feelings thereafter.

Eventhough Mary is viewed to have caused the conflict, she also wentahead and replaced Bill with another man whom she does not havestrong feelings for. Her impulsive marriage with the man she has nofeelings for reveal her thoughtless nature of her character,considering her extreme comprehension of the situation after thebetrayal and eventual breakup is the paradox of the whole “EarlyAutumn” short story (Hughes &amp Miller, 22). Instead of Maryattempt to try and get back with Bill and maybe pleading forforgiveness, she goes ahead and replaces him. The void in her life isfilled, but she does not feel a sense of betrayal on her side.

Frommy reading, the story is relevant in today’s society. The societyis full of such examples of relationships and betrayals of love. Thedifferences are slightly different in terms of how the world viewsthe essence of marriage. In the real society, betrayal can only bemuch stronger when the two, for example, were married. Consideringthey were not formally married, the society considers it too be lessserious. However, its relevance is evident in the sense that while itis important to value a relationship and commit to working on it.


Hughes,L., &amp Miller, R. B. (2002). Theshort stories.Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press