Langston Hughes: Comparison and Contrasting Essay
by Feross Aboukhadijeh
Langston Hughes was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of African-American literature and artistic forms in Manhattan during the 1920s. Not only did his writing promote African-American culture, but it sought to bring attention to the plight of the African-Americans suffering injustice and repression. His poems "I, Too" and "Theme for English B" both advanced his political views of equal civil rights and treatment under the law for African-Americans. Both poems use first-person voices; however the "I" is different for each poem, in order to fulfill Hughes' purpose for the poem.
In Hughes' poem "I, Too," the speaker is not an individual as the word "I" implies. In fact, the "I" represents the entirety of African-Americans living in the United States. That Hughes writes "I am the darker brother" instead of "we are the darker brothers" is no accident (2). The connotation of the word "I" as opposed to "we" is that of a lone individual, defenseless and outnumbered. The speaker says "They send me to eat in the kitchen," reinforcing the one-versus-all mentality that Hughes is trying to convey in this poem (3). "We" and "they," give a stronger, more united connotation than "I" does. In this poem, "I" is used to connote weakness, and isolation. As used in this poem, the first-person voice highlights the weakness of the African-American people. However, this is not the only way that Hughes uses "I" in his poetry.
On the other hand, Hughes' poem "Theme for English B," uses the first-person voice for an entirely different effect. In this poem, the "I" is an individual student. The poem is written like a narrative: "I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem" (7). Unlike the first poem, "I" is used here to connote strength and singularity. The speaker, an African-American student given an English writing assignment, engages his teacher in an intelligent, even pointed dialog. Hughes artistically makes use of the first-person point of view to enhance the effect of the story. By using words like "I" and "them", "me" and "you," the speaker is able to point out the differences between himself and his teacher. One passage in particular stands out for its incessant juxtaposition of the words "you" and "me":
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me— (31-38).
Not only does this highlight the differences between the speaker and teacher, but it puts the speaker in a commanding position. The fact that an African-American individual is writing something controversial, and making critical remarks of his teacher—and in such an eloquent way—is a sign of strength and source of pride.
Although these poems both make use of first-person voices, they each make use of voice to different ends. Nonetheless, both poems draw attention to the plight of the African-American people, albeit in different manners. Both poems cry out for civil rights and equality in a time where African-Americans were treated neither civilly nor equally.
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Sample Compare and Contrast Essay - "Langston Hughes"" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/sample-essays/compare-contrast-langston-hughes/>.
Matt McCready Mrs. Canan AP English 12 10/17/11 A Tale of Sorrow and Despair “Traveling through the Dark” and “Woodchucks,” by William Stafford and Maxine Kumin respectively, both have elements of language that reveal a deep relationship between the animals and the speakers. One poem brings a message of sorrow, while the other represents murder and hatred. In the poems “Traveling through the Dark” and “Woodchucks,” both speakers are killers, but their attitudes toward animals differ greatly. This discrepancy is shown through the tone, imagery, and symbolism . Neither of the two poems uses a similar tone. “Traveling through the Dark” uses one of sorrow and melancholy, while “Woodchucks” uses impatience accompanied with anger. In “Traveling through the Dark,” the speaker is upset because he must kill the unborn baby trapped inside the mother deer. He is preparing to roll her into the river when he that feels her belly is large and warm. The speaker goes on to say, “Beside that mountain road I hesitated” (Stafford 12). He contemplates what he would be doing if he killed this deer. By doing so he would be ending the baby’s life, never giving it a chance to live. He feels sorrow for the life he must end. He knows he must do so because leaving the deer in the road would risk the lives of others. The reader expresses this feeling when he states, “I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—, / then pushed her over the edge into the river” (Stafford 17-18). A connection is created between the speaker and the baby. As a reader one can feel how sad he is that he is forced to end its life. As a result, a sorrowful tone can be felt in “Traveling though the Dark” that connects the speaker to the animals. It conveys a different attitude than that of “Woodchucks.” The tone used in “Woodchucks” is one that starts with impatience and moves to anger. The beginning of the poem starts with the speaker explaining his methods of killing that were