Double Consciousness, Double Cognizance
As depicted by Langston Hughes in “The Weary Blues,” double consciousness in African-American culture poses a difficult question: is it necessary to assimilate to the Euro-American culture in order to blend into the melting pot of America, or is the celebration of African-American culture necessary to retain and preserve the African heritage as it exists in a predominantly ‘Euro-America?’ While Hughes’ poetry and short stories often include themes of double consciousness, this same theme was an occasional dilemma in his own life. Through these experiences, Hughes was able to explore and write about double consciousness from a first-hand point of view, creating the stories, the essays, the speeches, and of course, the poetry that gives his audience a deeper understanding of the internal struggles that exist within African-American culture. A small yet significant example in The Big Sea takes place after Hughes becomes a seaman on a merchant ship at the age of twenty-one and takes his trip to Africa. As the ship arrives along the coast, Hughes writes that the regular crew acquires a ‘supplemental’ crew of Africans, as the current crew he was with “weren’t supposed to be able to stand the sun” (Hughes 320). Hughes states this simplistically, as though that’s the only angle to the regular crews’ reasoning. The sentence immediately following this oversimplified statement reads, “Then I had an African boy to do my washing, my cleaning, and almost all my work-as did everybody on board” (Hughes 320). Considering Hughes just used the entire previous paragraph to describe his duties as seaman, it becomes obvious to the reader that Hughes is using the African boy much in the way a white American would employ a minority to tend their house, do their yard- or fieldwork, cook and clean, taking advantage of the boy’s need for money. Hughes then justifies using the African child as a sort of housekeeper by saying everyone else...
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