Critical Analysis Of Theme For English B

655 words - 3 pages

When I first read Langston Hughes' poem "Theme for English B", I did not particularly like it. But after reading it a second time and discussing it in class, I came to appreciate the poem on several levels. The way Hughes describes the setting of Harlem/New York is brief, but evocative. He also gives us insight into the thoughts and emotions of the main character, the young "colored" student, and ends the piece with several thought provoking passages.

In the first stanza we find the student, who is also the narrator, having gotten his homework assignment to write a paper, is returning home to Harlem. The school he attends is "on the hill" (line 9), and apparently is in a "better" part of town, so he has to travel through the various areas of the city. The streets he crosses are named, and then he gets "to the Y" (line 13). The usual meaning of a "Y" is a point in a road that splits in two directions. In this case, though, it refers to the YMCA, where the student lives. I think the author is aware of this double meaning, because in the next line he clarifies the term by stating "the Harlem Branch Y" (line 14). I feel he may be using it intentionally here, perhaps to call attention to the different path the student, being "colored" is being forced to take. In addition, the typical person who lives at the YMCA is poor and destitute. Imagine how much more destitute the person must be who lives at the YMCA in Harlem! I like these subtle meanings that are "hidden" within a few well-chosen words and the way they make the reader think.

Once the student is back in his room, he begins pondering his life's situation. He is sensitive to his current environment, and imagines Harlem and New York talking to him, as if they were...

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