Historical Criticism and Langston Hughes
In reviewing two of Langston Hughes’ poems, Ballad of the Landlord and Ruby Brown, the literary theory that would be most appropriate to use to develop an analysis of these poems would be Historical criticism. Historical criticism by definition studies the historical factors (social, cultural, etc.) that influenced the writer, as well as, his/her work of literature. This particular style of evaluating works of literature also focuses on the time period as an influence on the writer and the reader. This literary form would be most appropriate in evaluating Langston Hughes’ poems, because both of these poems and most of Mr. Hughes’ works of art, are deeply influenced by issues that plagued the 1920’s such as cultural/racial awareness, social injustice and militancy.
If one were to review Ruby Brown, a few lines in you would determine the descriptive word used “colored” to describe Ruby Brown and immediately know that this piece of literature is from another time. Using the theory of historical criticism would help the reader understand and delve into the underlying meanings set forth in this poem. As Mr. Hughes describes Ruby as too “young and beautiful” for her small city of Mayville, that because she is “colored” her looks would only get her so far. He also leads the reader into the realization that even her “fuel” or dreams would not help at all due to her race. He continues on to describe a moment where Ruby Brown was polishing silver and realized that life was indeed bleak for a colored girl who would only make a small wage working in a “white woman’s kitchen.” All of the above mentioned if explored in depth from the historical standpoint, could be further analyzed using a variety issues that Langston Hughes encountered at the time. He describes in detail the aspect of social injustice by way of wage differences for African Americans and also the oppression of African...
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