The Contrast Situations as the Representation of Structuralism to Show the Textual Unity and Coherence in Langston Hughes’ One Friday Morning

Problem Formulation:

1. Which parts of the text can be identified as the contrast situations?

2. Based on the five codes identified by Barthes in S/Z, how those contradictions are able to show the textual unity within the text?

Structuralism believes that a thing cannot be understood in isolation; it is contrasting to what Deconstruction’s belief ‘there is nothing outside the text’. As what structuralists usually do, the writer tries to look for the contrasts and then expects to find them in the situations which occur in the text. One Friday Morning written by Langston Hughes is the text which the writer is going to analyze. In One Friday Morning, there are some contrasts that can be found in some situations. To answer the first problem, which has been formulated above, the writer should find them first in the text.

The contrast that can be found:

  • - The main character is named Nancy Lee, she is a colored girl. She lives in a society which mostly consists of white people. (Colored and White)
  • - She used to live in South, but she and her family has moved to the North a few years ago. (South and North)
  • - When Nancy was told that she had won the scholarship, it should be the best day she ever had, but nature didn’t work cooperatively with her. Nancy was happy, but the day was grey and rainy. (The happy Nancy and the gloomy day – happy and gloomy)
  • - Nancy believes in “Liberty and Justice for all”, just like other Americans’ dream. Unfortunately, what she believes in has not come true yet. (Dream and Reality)


To answered the second question, the writer should review first what the five codes identified by Barthes in S/Z. After that, the writer will be able to analyze each point which is listed above. The five codes are the proairetic code, the hermeneutic code, the cultural code, the semic code, and the symbolic code. Based on the definition of each code, the symbolic code is the most appropriate code to analyze the points which are listed above. The symbolic code is linked to theme, but on the larger scale than the semic code; it consists of contrasts and pairings related to the most basic binary polarities. Colored and white, South and North, happy and gloomy, dream and reality. These are the structures of contrasted elements which structuralists see as fundamental to the human way of perceiving and organizing reality (Barry, 2002: 51). By analyzing each of the point we will find out that those contrasts are able to show the textual unity within the text.

First contrast is ‘colored and white’. How does that binary polarity convene meaning? The writer applies the concept of systematic patterning and structuring it to the American’s view about ‘colored and white’. First is about the concept of ‘colored’ in America. Related to the setting of the story which is published in 1939, politically, kind of that racism is already erased by the Declaration of Independent which ended the American Civil War in 1865. However, the concept of ‘colored’ which is usually related to the slave, discriminated, uneducated, is still closely in the mind of most Americans. In 1939, when Nancy should get the scholarship, whereas there is no more discrimination and already equal to the white, Nancy does not get it, because, still the same problem, she is a colored girl. The concept of the ‘colored’ based on Declaration of Independent which Nancy believes is different with the concept of ‘colored’ based on the committee of Artist Club that rejected her to be the winner of scholarship.

We still talk about the thing which has relation to the American Civil War; it is the concept of ‘South and North’. To analyze this thing, the writer, once again, applies the concept of systematic patterning and structuring to the American’s view. According to Americans, the concept of South and North are totally different. North is a land of hope. Even in the story, Langston Hughes wrote about it ‘…they had come up from the Deep South,…in order to give Nancy Lee a chance to go to school in the North.” Nancy’s father expect the better life in North, he consider that letting Nancy to school in the North is a chance. However, what Nancy’s father expected is experiencing the same thing as what Nancy’s believes about being colored is fine.

The third contrast is about ‘happy and gloomy’. In the text we can see that, Nancy must be very happy after she heard about her winning. Most people will assume that the word ‘happy’ will be related to the bright day, summer, etc, but in the text rather than find bright day or summer, we find the rainy day, grey, and wet April. Those things represent the gloomy situation rather than happy. And what structuralists do is asking why bright day and summer more often represent happy and rainy day, grey and wet April more often represent gloomy and what sign system or code is operating that allows people/readers to interpret those things (happy and gloomy). To find the answered of this case, the structuralists relate the text to the larger containing structure; it is relate it to a network of intertextual connection. People that assuming must have read some texts that influence them to have kind of that consideration in representing the word ‘happy’ and ‘gloomy’. That is why the reader can recognize that there is a gap between ‘the happy Nancy’ and ‘the rainy/gloomy day’.

“Liberty and Justice for all” is a symbol of American’s dream. For Nancy, that word is very magical. Firstly, she is so proud by being an American who believes that there is always Liberty and Justice for all. However, as the symbol of American’s dream, that word is still a dream to reach, because in reality, Nancy does not experience them; liberty and justice. ‘Liberty and Justice for all’ is actually something that is real, as real as Declaration of Independence. So the contrast here, we can see it from the concept of ‘Liberty and Justice for all’ is still a dream from Nancy, although in reality it is also real. Again, in this point the writer applies the concept of systematic patterning and structuring to the American’s view.

Now, we move to the next subject. After we discuss the contrasts that we can find in some situations of the text and analyze them as the representation of structuralism by applying some steps that the structuralists do, such as relating it to a network intertextual connection or applying the concept of systematic patterning and structuring to the particular culture, we will continue to discuss about how those contrasts actually be able to show the textual unity or coherence rather than to show textual disunity which is shown by deconstruction theory. As what Peter Barry wrote in his book Beginning Theory: An Introduction to literary and culture theory what a structuralist seeks are parallels, balance, reflection/repetition, symmetry, contrasts, pattern, and as the effect is to show textual unity or coherence. Then, this subject is finish to be discussed. However, it is not about quoting, but about analyzing. How something that struturalist seeks, in this case is contrasts, can show that textual unity or coherence. That is what we will find out.

As we have discussed above, according to structuralism that a thing/a text cannot be understood in isolation. It must be has a reference or related to the larger structure of the text. In ‘contrast’ case, how that thing can show the textual unity, more and less is because in a contrast must consists of two sides. By finding one side and the other of the binary opposition within the text and showing how those oppositions interrelate, the structuralists will be able to decode the text and then explaining its meaning. One example, by finding ‘white’ as the opposition of ‘colored’, we will able to understand the concept of ‘colored’ that the author means of, then after that we can explain the meaning of ‘colored’ within the text. So, from the explanation above, we can see that, though both deconstruction and structuralism use contrast situation to identify the surface meaning, the effect is completely different. While structuralism is aiming to seek the textual unity, deconstruction is aiming to seek the textual disunity. And from our latest discussion, we have proved that contrast situation in the text can show the textual unity and coherence.

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