Bad Man Langston Hughes

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“Bad Man” by Langston Hughes

In the poem “Bad Man” Langston Hughes examines the effects of racism and discrimination on a black man in 1930’s America. the meaning or central theme of the poem is that when a man is viewed with prejudice he often becomes subject to identifying with those prejudices and stereotypes which allows his actions to proceed that belief, which Langston Hughes is able to convey through repetition, rhyme and diction.

In the first stanza the reader is introduced to the “bad man”. The man introduced is one who follows stereotypes, “I’m a bad, bad man” (1) because he is introduced to them by his social surroundings, “Cause everybody tells me so” (2) which reinforces his beliefs. Hughes then repeats the lines to add emphasis to the man’s belief: “I’m a bad, bad man. Everbody tells me so.” (3-4), the fact that he leaves out “Cause” this time shows the reader that the man agrees with what people are saying about him. Hughes also presents the man as wanting to live up to his expectations because he “takes ma meaness and ma licker Everwhere I go” (5-6) so he will be accepted in the role that was forced on him. The diction used; “ma meaness”, “ma licker”, “Everybody”, “Everbody”, also help to present the man as having a lack of intelligence which corroborates the prejudice aimed towards him.

Stanza 2 describes the “bad man” engaging in a bad activity, to stay with his character. “I beats ma wife an’ I beats ma side gal too.” (7-8), again the diction not only is a product of culture but is also implemented to show a lack of knowledge that allows the character to easily identify with stereotypes. Hughes also uses repetition in this stanza for emphasis: “Beats ma wife an’ Beats ma side gal too.” (9-10), he leaves out “I” at the beginning of each line during this circumstance of repetition which presents the “bad man” as not identifying his actions with himself, but with the prejudices he is exposed to and agreeing with. The rhyme used,...
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