Symbolism in the Poem I, Too by Langston Hughes
Professor: John Hunt
Comp. 2 1302
24 February 2014
Symbolism in “I, Too” The poems of Langston Hughes have been referred to as the voice of black plight in early 20th century America. Poems full of the hopes, wishes, struggle and determination of black America to be recognized for their roles in helping build this country and be counted as equals amongst their white counterparts. The poem “I, Too” is one of many in Hughes’ catalog that follows this trademark style which has brought him world-wide notoriety. Here Langston Hughes uses eating dinner at the dinner table as a symbol for equality in America. Langston writes “I, too, sing America” (Line 1). This statement is not a literal meaning of Hughes singing a song about America or reciting the national anthem. This is a symbolic statement setting the precedent and tone of the story stating that he too is an American. He eats, sleeps, breathes and lives as an American just like the ones who have oppressed his people for years. Langston continues “I am the darker brother. / They send me to eat in the Kitchen / When company comes” (2-4). The image one congers after reading these lines may be one of a family eating dinner at the table and the darker son is sent to eat in the kitchen when company arrives as if the family is ashamed of the child. Hughes uses this setting to symbolize the relationship of black and white men during his time. By calling himself the darker brother he is saying that we all are brothers and sisters in God’s eyes but he is segregated and exiled due to the color of his skin as if the nation is ashamed of those with darker complexions. The rejection doesn’t anger Hughes “But I laugh / And eat well / And grow strong” (5-7). These words symbolize an inner strength in African Americans. Encouraging them to not hate their oppressors but to focus their anger on self-improvement, self-fulfillment and inner peace despite social conditions. Hughes continues to use
Cited: Hughes, Langston. “I, Too.” . The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. The Estate of Langston Hughes. 1994.