English Term Paper
Langston Hughes is a famous African-American poet whose work is known for interpreting racial relationships in the United States during the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was a great literary and artistic movement that took place during the 1920s and early 1930‘s which celebrated African-American culture. Many of Hughes’ poems were influenced by the contemporary music movements as his sense of racial pride continued to increase. Furthermore, he is well recognized for including an African-American perspective in his work. Raised in Lawrence, Kansas, Hughes always had a passion for literature and poetry. He used his personal experiences with family to assist him when he wrote poetry. In response to W. E. B. Du Bois’ idea of “double consciousness” to the African American cultural identity, Hughes writes the poem “Theme for English B.” Hughes is able to implement the “double consciousness” in his poetry by expressing his own identity and struggle alongside with the struggle of African Americans. Furthermore, in this poem, Hughes writes “I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem / I went to school there, then Durham, then here / to this college on the hill above Harlem” (7-9). Hughes explores his thoughts as he self assesses himself and this sets the tone throughout the poem. The setting brings forth a young college student experiencing the world through a coloured man’s eyes, a time during desegregation. Further into the poem, the reader is able to understand more about Hughes and his thoughts on racial difference. He is able to provide his views of racism, social status, and political equality in America. Hughes depicts himself as young, coloured and educated male and tries to give the reader an understanding of his life experience, thus implying the inseparability of his personal experiences from what he writes. The following will discuss the manner in which Hughes’ writing responds to the problem of racial differences and how through his poetry he attempts to bring awareness to the problems of racial discrimination. Mainly, it will analyze how he attempts to succeed in conquering aspects of racial discrimination.
Hughes focused on his ideas of racial discrimination as well as his attitude towards his own identity. Accordingly, Hughes writes about struggling to accept and understand one’s ethnic identity within a particular country. In his poem, “Cross,” Hughes tells his audience that he felt as if his mother was black and his father was white and that his dad lived a better life when he states, “My old man died in a fine big house, / My ma died in a shack” (9-10). These lines in the poem depict that his parents did not stay together for very long and that his father lived much better than his mother because of the colour of his skin. Hughes's parents were both mixed with African-American, European and Native American heritage. Thus, he understood the confusion and conflict that a person of mixed heritage experienced. He states his concern in the poem: “I wonder where I'm gonna die, / Being neither white nor black?” (11-12). Hughes is able to relate to the subject in the poem to his life by connecting his personal experiences to the content of what he writes, therefore proving to the reader that that he is inseparable from what he writes. The subject in the poem mirrors his own personal dilemma; he is biracial and does not know his place in society. Neither of his parents raised him which added to his confusion of not knowing where he was going to die. However, it is evident from his writings that Hughes does not blame them for his own struggle with identity. Due to Hughes dark complexion, he was not accepted by the white community, and he began to answer the question of who he was by identifying himself with the black race. His inclination to the black race was shaped by his Harlem surroundings as it had a powerful influence on the Harlem Renaissance. During this time he went to...
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