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Why, You Reckon

By | April 2013
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Harlem Renaissance Works

Langston Hughes was an African-American writer in the 1920's. He was best known for his stories in the Harlem Renaissance about the Black Culture. Hughes emphasized the theme that “Black is Beautiful.” In Hughes' short story, “Why, You Reckon,” he writes through the main character, the narrator, a poor, 'hongry' Black. Hughes uses character and scene description, symbolism, themes, and dialogue to set his story up and make it more interesting and historical to the reader. In “Why, You Reckon,” Hughes establishes a setting through direct characterization and word choice. In the beginning, the narrator says, “Depression times before the war plants opened up and money got to circulating again and that Second World War had busted out.” By saying this Hughes puts the setting in at night in Harlem right after the Great Depression and while WW2 was going on. The narrator and the other Black Man use slang that was spoken in their time period, which also sets the scene. Some of the slang use is “colored fellow” “jack” “speakeasies” “jane's” and “stung.” A description that implies to the reader about the theme is the furnace. The narrator describes the furnace room he says, “There wasn't much light back there, just the raw gas comin' out like a jet, kind of blue-like, blinkin' in the coal dust.” Symbolism plays a huge part in this story. Some symbols that are used is nighttime, wealth, and rich possessions. The narrator says, “It were just midnight,” “night” is a symbol of dark behavior such as robbing and stripping a man. Rich possessions is a symbol for the narrator. He talked about the rich's stuff and seemed to be fascinated with it. “He [the white man] pulled out a wallet, and a gold watch, and a cigarette lighter, and he got a swell key ring and some other little things colored folks never use.” This shows the narrator wanting things that he can't have, and he doesn't think he can be happy without. Poverty is also a symbol that plays a...
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