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Literary Critique Of Langston Hughes Essay

810 words - 3 pages

     Langston Hughes’s writing showcases a variety of themes and moods, and his distinguished career led his biographer, Arnold Rampersad, to describe him as “perhaps the most representative black American writer.” Many of his poems illustrate his role as a spokesman for African American society and the working poor. In others, he relates his ideas on the importance of heritage and the past. Hughes accomplishes this with a straightforward, easily understandable writing style that clearly conveys his thoughts and opinions, although he has frequently been criticized for the slightly negative tone to his works.
     One of the most predominate themes seen throughout Hughes’s poetry is that of discrimination. Hughes was a leader and spokesman for all underrepresented and mistreated societies, and he frequently questioned and criticized the established beliefs of the majority. He was especially outspoken for African Americans and the working poor. Hughes’s poem “Ballad of the Landlord” addresses the issue of prejudice in the sense of both race and social class. The lines “My roof has sprung a leak/ Don’t you ‘member I told you about it/ Way last week?” indicate both the speaking tenant’s predicament and the landlord’s disregard for an individual he obviously views as inferior. Upon confronting his landlord about the issue, the tenant is immediately arrested and tossed in jail. With the lines “Man threatens landlord/ Tenant held no bail/ Judge gives Negro 90 days in county jail,” Hughes clearly conveys his frustration with the plausibility and injustice of such a situation. Hughes provides a more personal account of the discrimination he endured because of his race in “Poet to Patron.” With the lines “What right has anyone to say/ That I/ Must throw out pieces of my heart/ For pay?” he relates his resentment that he must sell his own thoughts and feelings, an integral part of his being, simply to afford food to survive. Hughes’s reference to a “perfumed note” again illustrates the disdain he believes the overbearing aristocrats feel for his people.
     Hughes frequently addresses the notion of heritage and the importance of remembering the past in his writing. He elaborates specifically on his own understanding of African American culture and ancestry. In his poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” Hughes compares his knowledge of his people’s past with the depth of a river. The lines “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the/ flow of human blood...

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