Langston Hughes' stories deal with and serve as a commentary of conditions of African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance. As Ostrom explains, "To a great degree, his stories speak for those who are voiceless, cheated, abused, or ignored because of race or class." (51). Hughes' stories speak of the unfortunate African-Americans neglected and overlooked by a prejudiced society. The recurring theme of how powerlessness leads to violence is personified by the actions of Sargeant in "On the Road", old man Oyster in "Gumption", and the robber in "Why, You Reckon?"
Hughes' "On the Road" explores what happens when a powerless individual takes action on behalf of his conditions. The short story illustrates the desperation and resulting violent actions of one man's homeless predicament on a snowy winter evening. "He stopped and stood on the sidewalk hunched over- hungry, sleepy, and cold- looking up and down." (Hughes 90). Here, Sargeant is without the basic necessities of life- shelter and food. Sargeant, hopeless and starving, wanders the lonesome streets and happens upon a church. However, the reverend of the church denies him access. Mullen explains further,"And in "On the Road" an unemployed black man, given a quick brush-off by a high-toned preacher, breaks into a church" (81). When the Reverend refuses to house him, Sargeant's desperation and powerlessness leads him to commit a rash action, tear down the church door to a street of on-lookers. Shortly after, Police come to take Sargeant away and put him behind bars, where he thinks back on his actions. Had Sargeant had the basic means of survival, food and shelter, he would not have had done out of desperation. In other words, Sargeant's lack of security: food, shelter, and warmth, lead him to take violent actions in attempt to obtain it.
The short story "Gumption" also underlines the rash actions that can be taken by powerless individuals. When the Depression Era rolls around, most are...
Cited: Hughes, Langston. "Gumption." Short Stories: Langston Hughes. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996. 95- 100.
"On the Road." Short Stories: Langston Hughes. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996. 90-94.
"Why, You Reckon?" Short Stories: Langston Hughes. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996. 66-71.
Mullen, Edward J. Critical Essays on Langston Hughes. Boston: G. K. Hall & Co., 1986.
Ostrom, Hans A. Langston Hughes: a Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document