Langston Hughes: Comparison and Contrasting Essay
Both poems use first-person voices, however the "I" is different for each poem, in order to fulfill Hughes' purpose for the poem. In Hughes' poem "I, Too," the speaker is not an individual as the word "I" implies. In fact, the "I" represents all African-Americans living in the United States. The fact that Hughes writes "I am the darker brother" instead of "we are the darker brothers" is no coincidence. The implication of the word "I" as opposed to "we" is that of an individual, outnumbered and vulnerable. The speaker says "They send me to eat in the kitchen," supporting the one-versus-all mentality that Hughes is trying to show in this poem. "We" and "they," gives a stronger, more united meaning than "I" does. In this poem, "I" is used to imply isolation, and weakness. As used in this poem, the first-person voice climaxes the weakness of the African-American people. However, this is not the only way that Hughes uses "I" in his poetry. Hughes' poem "Theme for English B," uses the first-person voice for an entirely different effect. In this poem, the "I" is a student. The poem is written like a narrative "I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem". Unlike the first poem, "I" is used here to show power and individuality. The speaker, an African-American student given an English writing assignment, approaches his teacher in an intelligent, even pointed discussion. Hughes makes use of the first-person point of view to heighten the effect of the story. By using words like "I" and "them", "me" and "you," the speaker is able to point out the differences between himself and his teacher. One passage in particular stands out for its continuous connection of the words "you" and "me":
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you...
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