I admire Langston Hughes’s work. He is brilliant at creating images and using freedom and justice in his work. However, his writings did not connect with me or make me think and contemplate questions as much as other writings. I have never gone through the events that he and other African Americans have, nor do I wish ever to have to, so I have a disconnect and lack of experience in the trials of his life and experience. Another quality of Hughes’s poems is displaying the world around him and breaking down stereotypes of the time.
I found his use of simple, understandable words and sentences enjoyable, as there was little to get in the way of what he does best in his imagery and ability to cement his point. He focuses less on wordplay and more on displaying elaborate imagery that is easy to see. This is an apparent influence from Whitman and his free verse style. This effect works best in his poems of lists, like in “The Negro who speaks of river” and “Negro” where the effect of his use of imagery is the clearest to the picture and is unimpeded by anything.
His work did not provoke the same intense contemplation that other stages and poems have for me, but I think it has to do with the fact I was not the intended recipient of most of his writings. Having never experienced discrimination, a line like (There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.” (l.15-16) doesn’t have the same impact as a line like “And in that sleep what dreams may come” from William Shakespeare. Having witnessed loved family members pass away after a year of suffering from dementia and cancer makes a line like this burn into my mind like a hot iron after they were gone and buried. This line of Shakespeare raised questions I had never asked and gave me solace one day, for I would know the answer in the future, but for now, I could just ponder it and think of the possibilities. I got nothing like this for Langston Hughes, but I have not experienced racism and discrimination, but everyone is acquainted with the reaper.
Hughes’ work makes ample use of the problems faced by African Americans of the time and incorporates them into his work. Examples of contouring stereotypes like that all black people are the same using “Deferred” and lines like “This year, maybe, do you think I can graduate?” (l.1) and ”All want is to see my furniture paid for” (l.25) he uses these and many more examples like to make his point. Another example is in Dream Boogie, where “Sure, I’m happy! Take It away” (l.15-17) is used as a satire that black people are always happy and never unhappy.
I thought Langston Hughes’s work was brilliant. His effect seems to have influenced many people and is a shining example of the work we can create even under pressure and discrimination. Although Hughes has many qualities in his work, that was little for me to ponder as many questions and imagery went over my head as I had never experienced anything like it.