Tales of Simple

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Tales of Simple and the Symbolic Undertone

Langston Hughes is considered to be one of the most well known poets/writers in the modern era. One of his most notable works was a series of fictional short stories called Tales of Simple. In these tales, Hughes uses symbolism to express his feelings and views on African American history through the character Jesse B. Semple. In literary terms, the word “symbolism” is defined as being a person, object or event that suggests more than its literal meaning. In Langston Hughes’ “Tales of Simple”, the author uses the main character’s name, feet and view on a type of Jazz music to symbolize the life of an African American and the effect of slavery, discrimination and racism on blacks.

One of the first examples of symbolism that Langston Hughes uses is the naming of the main character in the tales: Jesse B. Semple. Hughes explains that it would be “impossible to live in Harlem and not know at least a hundred Simples…” (97). Hughes chose the name Simple to symbolize the average man’s perspective the tales were being told from. By doing this, Hughes gives the readers a constant reminder of the character’s background and social makeup. This reminder also shows how African Americans during that time viewed and approached things in life. Hughes also uses the name Simple to showcase the state of mind and the effect the hard life African Americans endured because of lack of bare necessities in their lives.

The name Simple is an example of symbolism in and of itself. However, the symbolism displayed through the main character throughout the book is most prominently displayed by repeated references about his feet. Simple’s feet symbolize the hardships that he has faced, the experiences in his life, and in general, encompasses everything about him and his life. Hughes writes in his tale Feet Live Their Own Life, “If you want to know about my life don’t look at my face, don’t look at my hands. Look at my feet and see if you can...
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