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Langston Hughes

What are the ideas which Langston Hughes explores in his poems? Langston Hughes’s poetry depicts the influences of his life and highlights his commitment to black culture. He explored the ideas of racism, dreams, the importance of culture, equality and belonging in his poetry, all of which he has experienced and been influenced by. In the poem Theme for English B, Hughes expresses his frustration towards white Americans.

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He discusses themes of belonging to his culture in this poem. In the Dream Sequence, Hughes write about the importance of dreams and conveys to his readers life would be unimportant and directionless.

Hughes’s poetry emphasises his experience and support of Black Americans at a time when they were facing harsh discrimination. Langston Hughes focused his work on the unfairness of life in America. He conveys to his readers that although everybody is from different origins, we all share similar human experiences. In his poem, Theme for English B, Hughes portrays the level of racism occurring in America and states that he is the only ‘coloured’ person in his class. He explains that all Americans, white or black, experience the same human values.

In the poem, he asks ‘I wonder if it is that simple? ’, giving a sense of isolation because he is different. He also states in his work ‘being coloured does not make me not like the same thing other folks like who are other races’, saying that being ‘coloured’ does not make him different or worth less that white Americans. To express this, he applies an extensive use of metaphoric language and strong imagery throughout the poem. Hughes believes dreams to be a critical part of life, he sees them as essential and an important experience. Hughes regards life to be of no use without dreams.

In his Dream Sequence, consisting of three poems, he discusses the importance of dreams and emphasises to his readers to follow them and not ever let go. In the first stanza of Dreams one of the three poems, Hughes uses strong visual imagery when he says ‘Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is like a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. ’ He also quotes that ‘Life is a barren field, Frozen with snow. ’ Both metaphors are extremely negative, expressing just how damaging it can be without dreams and how directionless life can become if they are deferred. Hughes directs many of his poetic works to relate to the importance of culture.

He writes about the difficult hardships which Black Americans were to deal with during the Harlem Renaissance controversy. In the second stanza of the poem Theme for English B, Hughes shows the connection he has with his culture when he includes a conversation with the Black Americans and himself. He says ‘Hear you, hear me – we two—you, me, talk on this page. ’ This depicts how deeply involved Hughes is with his culture and how important culture is for Black Americans and himself. He uses many metaphoric phrases and strong visual imagery to convey to his readers the value of culture.

Hughes applied many themes connected to equality and fairness. He believes that all Americans, black or white, should be treated with equal respect and value. Hughes’s poems related to equality and human pride continued through many other wars undisturbed. He expresses his frustration and unsatisfactory towards the lack of equality in the United States between the black and white Americans when he says ‘being coloured does not make me not like the same thing other folks like who are other races’ in Theme for English B. He uses soothing sounds of blues and jazz from the period of the Harlem Renaissance to give a vibrating idea of equality.

Hughes concentrates on discussing the importance of belonging to his culture to a great extent. He focuses on the message that all Americans, white or black, belong to the same human race then to the same country rather than the race or culture and should treat each other with respect and equality. He demonstrates this in many parts of Theme for English B, when he refers to being ‘coloured’ throughout the poem. Examples include ‘I am the only coloured student in my class. ’ and ‘so will my page be coloured that I write? ’ This shows how alienated and alone black Americans were and felt during the Harlem Renaissance.

Throughout all of his poetry, Hughes’s feelings towards white America include frustration and isolation. Hughes also commemorates America, his home, although others do not regard his culture as being a part of it. In most of his poetry, Hughes states negative feelings and demonstrates aggravation towards white Americans however, he still continues to remain optimistic in spite of the cruel inequity which they were dealing with. Although Hughes depicts the insensitive realism experienced by black Americans during the 1920s, he still includes in his poems, the pride, decorum and worship he has for his culture.

In some of his works, he states his own thoughts of independence, freedom and fairness. It is the value of his poetry which encourages black Americans and gives them the same sense of satisfaction. The many poems which Langston Hughes had composed spoke for those of the black Americans who could not do so for themselves. He contributed to a great impact on black culture in America and the generations to come by writing about American issues with the use of blues and jazz.

He shows that negative features such as racism and inequality should not occur and that dreams, importance of culture, independence and belonging are all necessities in life. The ideas which he explored in his poetry has changed not only the American society and their mentality towards black Americans but also the way the world should respect different cultures and races. In conclusion, Langston Hughes discusses many themes in his poetry which black Americans faced in the 1920s that are now being looked at in a different perspective.

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