Politics in Verse
Langston Hughes knew the meaning of adversity firsthand. As a black man living in the early twentieth century, he encountered many different struggles on a daily basis. Though he could have easily become jaded by this, he instead strived to overcome and led others to do the same through his contributions to the literary world (Michaels). A prime example of one of his motivational works is Let America Be America Again. His critique of America reached out to not only to fellow blacks, but just about every other group that modern American society had wronged. The statements made in the poem are very straightforward, but by using multiple literary and poetic devices, Hughes manages to deliver his message powerfully and very effectively.
Let America Be America Again starts out simply with easy quatrains in an ABAB rhyme scheme (893 lines 1-14). He writes of America as an omniscient narrator, however, after each stanza, he parenthetically places his own thoughts about how the legend of America never was what it was supposed to be to him. By doing this, he manages to subtly insert his opinion at first, allowing the reader to form their own, thus far, anyway.
Later in the poem, however, Hughes breaks away from the simple quatrain. He slowly abandons the rhyme scheme previously mentioned as well, as his thoughts become more fervent. By switching from mild mannered statements to exclamations, the reader can easily feel the mounting emotion in the poem. He writes as if he has experienced the prejudices of every people, making the poem easily relatable. When the reader finally reaches the last stanza, they are will feel the plight just as Hughes has, and are eager to heed his advice of "We, the people, must redeem... the stretch of these great, green states and make America again!" (894 lines 77-81).
More technical devices are used throughout the poem, as well. Hughes includes alliteration quite often as in line eleven's "let my land...
Cited: Jacobs, Henry E. Edgar V. Roberts. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing.
Comp. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.
Michaels, Jonathan. "An American". 2003.
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