Langston Hughes is an African American poet who lived during the Harlem Renaissance.The diction and tone used in his poems provide insight into the lives of African Americans. This allows the reader to understand the hardships of their lives and sympathize with the speakers. The world in the poems resembles the world we live in today which brings up questions like what should we be doing to make our society more globally aware?
Langston Hughes uses poetry to share the perspectives of oppressed groups of people through the speaker’s diction which expresses their feelings on topics such as injustice. An insight on the speaker’s perspective on the hardships in their life made me sympathize with them. An example of this is “I Too”, in this poem the speaker is an African American who is not allowed to sit at the kitchen table with white people. The speaker’s tone is frustrated. He expresses this through his word choice “They’ll see how beautiful I am/ And be ashamed- /I too am America” (ll.15-17). These words “ I too am America” help readers understand the frustration of African Americans. But it also has the reader admiring the speaker for his perseverance, I find myself rooting for justice for the speaker. A poem that shows the perspective of working African American mothers is “ The Negro Mother”. In this poem the speaker expresses the struggles of being a black mother. they go through to create a positive life for their children. The diction in this poem carries emotional weight which portrays the speaker as overworked, “ No safety, no love, no respect was I do”(l.16) and, “But I had to keep on till my work was done. I had to keep on! No stopping for me-”(ll.29-30). This exhausted tone makes the reader respect and sympathize with African American mothers. Lastly, the poem I found most moving “Let America Be America Again” shows the perspective of all the oppressed groups in America: the poor white people, African Americans and other people of colour. An angry tone is expressed by the speaker. It is created through the use of ill- favoured words “Out of the rack and ruin of our gangsters death, the rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies” (ll.79-80). This passage emphasizes the exasperation and shows the reader a glimpse into how it feels to be oppressed in America. This often has the reader sympathizing and supporting the speaker. Langston Hughes cleverly uses the speaker’s diction as an outlet to share the perspectives of injustice in America. By doing this the reader can understand and have sympathy for the characters. These simple black marks on white paper give light to perspectives that otherwise couldn’t be seen by outsiders.
The speakers’ in these poems are not just characters; they tell the story of real people. The people in these poems represent people in our world today, this raises questions about global awareness.Their perspectives share feelings and struggles that are felt by many people today because the world depicted in these poems is similar to the world we live in today. The similarities between the world in the poem and today’s world are the strong prevalence of racism and injustice towards people of colour. For example in “Ballad of the Landlord” an African American is facing unlawful charges from the police. This can also be seen in America with the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality against African Americans. Due to the similarity between the world in the poems and our world today a question that is raised for me is what should I do? And what can we do to make our society more globally aware and just? And I think the answer is to keep listening. Listening to the voices whether through more poetry, other literature or social media. I believe this will help us be more globally aware and then allow us to act in a way which is beneficial and supportive. For example in “ As I grew older” by Langston Hughes the speaker states “Help me to shatter this darkness,/ To smash this night,/ To break this shadow,/ Into a thousand lights of sun,/ Into a thousand whirling dreams/ Of sun” (ll.28-33). Here the speaker is asking the reader to help him break the barriers that African Americans face while trying to reach their dreams. If we as a society continue to listen to oppressed voices and learn about the past then we can act to make the future a place of justice and freedom. Reading a collection of Langston Hughes poems showed me many new perspectives which will help me to be more culturally aware.