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Langston Hughes and African-Americans

Langston Hughes’ extant works reveals that a poets work can be divorced from their times, while also expressing his thoughts about ongoing troubles in African American lives. To understand Hughes literature more fully it must be in context, however, the themes and ideas presented are still relevant today. A study of the poem ‘Mother to Son’ explains the constant struggle in African American life and the importance or perseverance. Examining ‘Christ in Alabama’ demonstrates the impact of politics and legal events. Lastly, ‘Harlem’ expresses how change still hasn’t occurred in American society. Continuity is shown in these poems as they all address related themes. Furthermore, the topics represented in the texts are related to the ongoing issues at the time.

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Written in 1922, the poem ‘Mother to Son’ conveys the message that life for African Americans was troublesome. The poem consists of vernacular language, which informs the reader that the poem isabout African Americans. For instance the use of ‘kinder’,which is a solecism that means kind of, ‘I’se’ and ‘a-climbin’ refer to the language used by African Americans in Hughes’ time, making the poem about them and indicating that they are the ones who are made to struggle.

The poems structure is free verse and has no stanzas. It is ironic that the poem is free verse as in a way African Americans are not free but constantly burdened by hardships. The lack of stanzas within the poem reflects the idea that there are no breaks for African Americans, that they are continually facing obstacles. The use of punctuation in the form of commas slows down the poem where it talks about tough times. The effect of this is to emphasise the struggle encountered. This occurs during the three lines ‘It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up,’. This is also an example of accumulative listing that provides further emphasis on the difficulty faced. The perseverance implied in the poem is emphas…


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