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Langston Hughes’ “As I Grew Older”

In “As I Grew Older,” Langston Hughes describes the battle and perseverance for African-American’s freedom though numerous metaphors. In the title and first stanza, Hughes compares his dream to a child growing older. A child is born into the bright sun with the mindset with anything is possible.

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But as the child grows older, they face obstacles. Hughes also refers to his goals as “my dream,” which was different from the White-American’s dream, expressing how personal this dream is. In the second stanza Hughes introduces the wall, his obstacles and racial separation itself.

He uses commas to further elongate the seemingly never-ending process of the wall growing. With each line, Hughes is pressed to the side of the page, as if this wall is physically straining him from writing. The wall seems to grow and grow forever, until it finally touches the sky. With the wall blocking the bright light, Hughes’ dream is in the dark. Replaced by a shadow, Hughes declares: I am black. This simple statement not only refers to Hughes’ situation in the poems context but also his being African-American.

A shadow of racism soon covers the country. Through the first four stanzas the attitude of the speaker is sad and hurt. The tone of the poem suddenly changes from being passive to active. Hughes urges his “dark hands,” his culture and people, to “break thorough the wall! ” and help him “break this shadow / into a thousand lights of sun! ” The “dark hands” can also be a reference to slavery. Hughes believes that although there have been dark times, they can break down the wall of segregation to let in the lights of equality.

Hughes’ use of the sun as the goal expresses how far away the dream is yet how great an accomplishment this would be. This poem is a direct metaphor for Hughes’ life and struggle with racism directed towards African-Americans. His own childhood scarred, Hughes hopes to break down this wall of the dominating White America. With the support of the African-American community, Hughes believes that they can overcome racism and segregation for equal rights. Hughes, Langston. “As I Grew Older. “