The Music of Sadness
“The Weary Blues,” by Langston Hughes, tells a story of an unnamed narrator recalling an evening of listening to a man sing the blues one night in Harlem. Hughes uses a somber tone, depressed voice, syntax and imagery as language styles to convey a great deal of suffering that was occurring in Harlem during the mid-1900’s.
In “The Weary Blues” Hughes uses imagery to communicate to the reader what the narrator is experiencing while listening to blues. The reader can feel the slow and steady beat of the music: “He did a lazy sway…/ He did a lazy sway…” (4-5). The flow of the two lines mimics the beat of the music. The reader can hear the pain in the voice of the musician: “In a deep voice with a melancholy tone” (17). By using the word ‘melancholy’ the reader can understand there is sadness in his bass voice. One can see his hands working the piano in the dim light: “By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light/…/With his ebony hands on each ivory key” (5, 9). Due to the detailed description the reader can see the musician’s dark hand in contrast to the pale keys of the piano. Through the use of imagery Hughes has allowed the reader to empathize with the musician’s pain and relate to his suffering.
Hughes uses syntax as a language device in “The Weary Blues” to show the singer is not just singing about his feeling, but of Harlem as a whole: “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, /Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, /I heard a Negro play,” (1-3). In the opening lines Hughes places the subject and the verb of the sentence at the end. He uses this sentence structure show the relationship between the singer and his audience and the dual effect the music has on the performer and anyone listening. The singer is droning and swaying as he performs, but so is his audience as they listen, thus they become merged in the sentence because it describes their interaction. Hughes suggests that the blues is a shared experience and...
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