Discrimination in Society:
An Unfolding of the Poem “The Ballad of The Landlord”
Landlords look down at their tenants with no regard for their safety and wellbeing. This makes it awfully difficult for a tenant, even more so if they are black. In the Langston Hughes poem “The Ballad of The Landlord,” issues such as these are present throughout the poem. In his poem Hughes allows his readers to experience racial discrimination in America and the awareness to social issues suffered by African Americans in the 1940’s.
The first stanza of the poem states how a tenant would tell their landlord of a problem in their apartment. The tone of the stanza makes you feel sorry for the tenant. When ...view middle of the document...
The tenant does not have an issue paying the rent; he just wants the repairs made.
However, to the landlord this results in an increase in tone in the fourth stanza. The tenant becomes distressed and reacts strongly to the landlord’s threats: “You gonna cut off my heat? / You gonna take my furniture and / Throw it in the street?” (lines 14 – 16). These threats show the landlord has no respect for his tenant and would cast him out rather than fix the problems with the apartment. This is a turning point in the poem. The tenant first was willing to work with the landlord and pay double but now has become outraged and defensive towards the landlord. Money is more important to the landlord, the safety and well beings of his tenant, the minority.
Yet, in the fifth stanza, the tenant’s outrage is truly brought forth and it shows as Hughes uses punctuations and capitalization to communicate his point, “Um-huh! You talking high and mighty” (line 17). The tenant experiences the true emotions and frustrations of lower class discrimination. The argument becomes heated, “You ain’t gonn a be able to say a word / If I land my fist on you “(lines 19 – 20). “We see a shift that reflects the landlord’s speech in the stanzas that follow; they are free of slang and more directly related to violence” (So, 2013).
Also, the tenant no longer speaks in the sixth and subsequent stanzas. The landlord now shows his superiority and outrage over his tenant, he shouts, “Police! Police! / Come and get this man! / He’s trying to ruin the government / And overturn the land!” (line 21 - 24). Hughes use of a hyperbole, “He’s trying to ruin the government” (line 23), is an exaggeration towards the tenant remarks, on the landlord’s refusal to make repairs. The landlord has over-reacted to the tenant’s threats, but he knows that he has the law on his side when defending himself against an infuriated, minority tenant. During this time period, blacks were treated with disrespect. Whites wanted...