Theme for English B
Literature and poetry have long been a part of our social makeup from the ancient writings of Homer to relatively modern writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century was Langston Hughes, who rose through the Harlem Renaissance to deal with social and race issues through his various literary works. Several of his works have left their imprint on American society, especially when the racial divide was more obvious years ago. One of his most famous poems was “Theme for English B” where he used several poetic devices to help the reader connect with, and understand, the poem.
The tone of the poem remains particularly straightforward and blunt from the beginning to the end. Hughes writes of a student assigned to writer a paper to write a paper about themselves and “let that page come out of you – then, it will be true.” The student then promptly questions, “I wonder if it’s that simple?” His matter-of-fact attitude continues throughout the poem as he attempts to let his feelings and emotions flow through his writing. He further drives home his blunt attitude when he refers to race questioning “So will my page be colored that I write?” In this instance, the student is presenting an open-ended question to his instructor. He refuses to hold back his emotions and seems to develop a more inquisitive tone as the poem progresses. He seems to have a bit of underlying resentment that is smoothed over with understanding near the end of the poem as he begins to wrestle with the topic of prejudice. The tone in the poem eases the reader in with a look into getting to know the student as a normal, perhaps arrogant person. Then he brings race into the discussion when he mentions “I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races.” From this point the tone takes a more inquisitive approach with what seems to be reserved frustration over race-issues. The...
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