Langston Hughes Throughout many of Langston Hughes’ poetry, there seems to be a very strong theme of racism. Poems such as ‘Ballad of the Landlord’, ‘I, Too’, and ‘Dinner Guest: Me’ are some good examples of that theme. The ‘Ballad of the Landlord’ addresses the issue of prejudice in the sense of race as well as class. The lines ‘My roof has sprung a leak. / Don’t you ‘member I told you about it/ Way last week?’ (Hughes 2/4) show the reader that the speaker, the tenant, is of a much lower class than his landlord. It also shows that the landlord could care less of what condition his building is in as long as the money is still coming in.
‘Well, that’s Ten Bucks more’n I’ll pay you / Till you fix this house up new.’ (Hughes 11/12) shows that the speaker may be cleverer than originally thought because he is hitting the landlord right where it hurts: his wallet. At this point it seems that the speaker may actually win and get his home fixed up, until he threatens the landlord in fifth stanza. That’s when it all turns around. The landlord uses that threat to get the speaker, who we now find out, is black, thrown in jail. Richard K. Barksdale wrote ‘in 1940, [‘Ballad of the Landlord’] was a rather innocuous rendering of an imaginary dialogue between a disgruntled tenant and a tight-fisted landlord.’ He then goes on to comment about the literature having once again pitted the haves against the have-nots.
H2>Hard Daddy, Midwinter Blues, Little Old Letter Langston Hughes electrifies readers and launched a renaissance in black writing in America. The poems Hughes wrote celebrated the experience of black men and women, the poor, and the lovesick. Helping the African-American male gain praise in the poetic and musical world Hughes conveyed an experience that turned poetic lines into the phrases of ...
According to him, the landlord / tenant confrontation was ‘just another instance of the social malevolence of a system that punished the powerless and excused the powerful.’ He says that Hughes’ tone of dry irony leads us to suspect that he ‘deliberately overstated a situation and that some sardonic humor was supposed to be squeezed out of the incident… .’ When this poem was written in the 1940’s it showed an incident that was very likely to happen in American urban life. By the 1960’s it had incited a political revolt and promoted civil unrest as a literary class assignment in a Boston high school. It was reported later that the Boston high school teacher that gave the assignment was fired for doing so. In Langston Hughes’ ‘I, Too’, written in 1925, the speaker in the poem is a young black male.
Through out this entire poem the speaker expresses great hope about his peoples’ future. He seems to think that very soon, during his time, there would have been a drastic change in the way that his people were treated. ‘Tomorrow, / I’ll be at the table’ (Hughes 8/9), shows his confidence that his people would be treated as equals in a very short time period. In the last line of the poem ‘I, too, am America.’ (Hughes 18) we can almost see the speaker’s face beaming with pride.
Another one of Langston Hughes’ poems, ‘Dinner Guest: Me’, written in 1965, is almost a continuation of ‘I, Too’. The speaker in ‘Dinner Guest: Me’s seems to be the same one, except this time that pride that we saw in his face is gone. Now instead of being confident about ‘Tomorrow’s’ change, he sees that it is, and will take much longer than he had originally anticipated. The last two lines of the poem, ‘Solutions to the Problem, / Of course, wait.’ (Hughes 22/23), tell us that this man who was once so proud of who he was is now so brainwashed by white propaganda that he refers to himself as a ‘Problem.’ We can however see that there were some differences since ‘I, Too’ but there should have been a lot more over the forty years between the poems.
This past week I attended the play, "Revolution: A Song of Black Freedom" and I was very impressed on how it played out. The words of this play were written by Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. This play displayed a lot of the different poems that were written by Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. I thought it was a very good tribute to the lives of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. It showed how ...
Maybe that’s the reason that the speaker is much less confident now. He must have figured that if so little had changed over all of those years, then he probably would not live to see total equality and acceptance. Langston Hughes ‘is a poet with whom to reckon, to experience, and here and there, with that apologetic feeling of presumption that should companion all criticism, to quarrel.’ (Cullen 1041) Countee Cullen admires Hughes for his ’emancipated spirit among a class of young writers whose particular battle-cry is freedom.’ Many people agree with Cullen’s views on Hughes because of such poems as ‘I, Too’ and ‘Dinner Guest: Me’. In these poem we can however see the attitude of the speaker change because of the huge gap between them. At one point Cullen says that to her, some of his works seem to give only one side of the story. ‘They tend to hurl this poet into the gasping pit that lies before all Negro writers, in the confines of which they become racial artists instead of artists pure and simple.’ (Cullen 1041) Some may disagree with her opinion on this, but the rest of her thoughts on Langston Hughes seem to be universal.
As proved through the above mentioned examples and essays, Langston Hughes often used the theme of racism in his works. Many people feel that this theme is expressed so strongly because of Hughes’ family background. For whatever reasons he uses this particular theme, it is one that is very obvious to all of us who appreciate his many works. Works Cited Barksdale, Richard K.
‘On Censoring ‘Ballad of the Landlord’.’ Meyer 1038. Cullen, Countee. ‘On Racial Poetry.’ Meyer 1041. Hughes, Langston ‘Ballad of the Landlord.’ Meyer 1025. Hughes, Langston.
‘Dinner Guest: Me.’ Meyer 1033. Hughes, Langston. ‘I, Too.’ Meyer 1014. Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. 5 th Ed.
Boston: Bedford / St. Martins, 1999.