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Out of the kitchen: An Examination of the American Dream in the Poetry of Langston Hughes

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Out of the Kitchen:
An Examination of the American Dream in the poetry of Langston Hughes
The Harlem Renaissance gave a voice to many gifted artists, writers, and poets. Perhaps, for the first time, people were using the arts on a broad scale to give national and international voice to the long-silenced personal and political struggles of America’s ethnic other, specifically the African-American. Among the many gifted poets of the movement, Langston Hughes is, easily, one of the most recognizable and influential. Although his poems are lyrically beautiful, many of them also admonish a mythologized, free America as little more than a quaint, and for many, wholly unattainable model. Two of Hughes’ best known works, “Let American Be America Again” and “I, Too” speak directly to the grotesque imbalance of freedoms and rights in the U.S.. Using a number of literary devices, Hughes creates poems that are as poetically striking as they are politically and socially defiant. Through precise word choice, metaphor, and physical structure, Hughes creates multi-dimensional speakers who address two separate and unequal audiences. In these anthem-like poems, the speakers expound on their overwhelming desire for equality, unity, and freedom by addressing the short-comings of a capitalist system that makes commodities out of oppressed individuals and populations. Hughes’s poems focus on the American dream, a fantasy that is off-limits to anyone on the wrong side of the color line or income gap; however, despite their scathing criticisms, a patriotic hopefulness resides at the core of these two poems.
The speakers demonstrate voice and tone through precise word choice and juxtapose the fantasy American dream against the reality of racial and cl...


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... publication. Although certainly strides have been made, it is difficult to read Hughes’s work without asking if, in the twentieth century, the “farmer,” the “worker” the negro” and the “immigrant” are eating in the kitchen or dining with the guests?




Works Cited

Whitman, Walt, “I Hear America Singing”.. N.p.. Web. 11 Nov 2013.
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Hernton, Calvin. "The Poetic Consciousness of Langston Hughes from Affirmation to
Revolution." Langston Hughes Review 12.1 (Spring 1993): 2-9. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Timothy J. Sisler. Vol. 53. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Nov. 2013.
Poetry, Foundation.. N.p.. Web. 11 Nov 2013. .
Hughes, Langston. “Let America be America Again” N.p.. Web. 12 Nov 2013. .





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