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Poetry of Langston Hughes
There are three poems of Langston Hughes' upon which the paper will focus. Those poems are: "I, too," "Democracy," and "Let America be America Again." "I, too" was a poem of focus earlier on in the course. "Democracy" and "Let America be America Again" are other poems with various similarities that the paper will bring to light over the course of the comparison. Some of the elements of the poetry that will be compared include themes, symbols, language, and metaphors. Through comparison of these poems, the paper will demonstrate just some of the commonalities across Hughes' body of work.
"I, too" is written in the first person. There are five stanzas in all. The first stanza and the last stanza only consists of one sentence. Each sentence begins with "I, too" and there is a mention of America. The middle three stanzas consist of several lines, and the fifth stanza only has three lines. The poem consists of words in isolation, phrases, and short sentences. The poem is written from a singular perspective, from that of an African-American male living in a subordinate position in a country dominated by White Americans. Despite communicating racial tensions, the tone of the poem is somewhat hopeful.
There is repetition of language in this poem. The word "I" is repeated the most often. Some key lines from the poem with the word "I" are: "I am the darker brother," "I, too am America," and "But I laugh,/And eat well,/And grow strong." The repetition of the word "I" is significant. The use of the word I reminds the reader of the subjective point-of-view of the writer and the imagined character talking to the reader. Hughes lived during the end of Reconstruction and into the Civil Rights Movement; therefore, as an African-American man, he had lived through segregation and some of the most racially turbulent moments of American history where the perspectives of minorities was not acknowledged or valued by the mainstream culture. Hughes' use of "I" throughout "I, too" is a rebellion to that kind of cultural repression. Repeating the word I throughout the poem is a kind of exercise of personal freedom; it is a declaration of existence.
Though there is no mention of white people in the poem, their presence is implied in the kinds of pronouns that Hughes uses. He writes, "They send me to eat in the kitchen/When company comes…" Later on he writes, "Nobody'll dare/Say to me, "Eat in the kitchen…" and "They'll see how beautiful I am and be/And be ashamed…" He does not say that white people order him to eat in the kitchen and that white people make him leave when there is company in the home. He does not specifically mention that whatever profession he has, it is a form of servitude to white people, yet in his simple and vague language, a great deal of racial tension and social stratification is implied.
Perhaps he felt that the facts of the African-American experience was common enough knowledge that it might be redundant or have less of an impact if he mentioned white supremacy in American culture, specifically. He chose to not mention the nature of racial segregation directly because it was extremely obvious and pervasive in American culture. Additionally, though the poem mentions issues that are sad and shameful parts of American history, the poem is not hateful, spiteful, or angry. Again, as aforementioned, "I, too" has a tone of hope.
"Democracy" is another fairly short poem consisting of five stanzas. "Democracy" is about the experience of living in America when one is not a part of the ethnic and cultural majority. A common theme in Hughes' poetry is the communication of the experience of the cultural other in America. An important part of the experience of non-whites is their exclusion from history with respect to their contributions, their subjectivity, and their experiences.
Hughes' poetry seeks to communicate the experience of American life from outside of the cultural norm. Whereas "I, too" was a bit hopeful, "Democracy" is more realistic and even cynical. This poem also communicates feelings such as exasperation (5th stanza) and disappointment (3rd stanza). There is a tone of self righteousness and of justice (2nd and 4th stanzas). There are some similarities in form and…[continue]
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