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Idealism in Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes

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Idealism in Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes

     In the poem "Let America Be America Again," Langston Hughes paints a vivid word picture of a depressed America in the 1930's. To many living in America, the idealism presented as the American Dream had escaped their grasp. In this poetic expression, a speaker is allowed to voice the unsung Americans' concern of how America was intended to be, had become to them, and could aspire to be again.


Using a conversational style, the author allows the speaker and listener to interact with each other. The issue addressed is that America is not the democratic ideal of all of its people. The original speaker begins in a fairly common quatrain stanza; however, when the listener is allowed to respond, the stanzas become irregular indicating the passion felt as well as the urgency of the message. The listener's response contains the main idea of the piece, comparing the democratic ideal to the conditions of those who are victims because of race, age, or economic status. The author's careful use of alliteration in phrases such as "pushed apart" (19) and "slavery's scars" (20) emphasizes the struggles and alienation experienced by less fortunate Americans.


The speaker begins the narration by making a statement that America should return to the idealistic way it used to be: "Let it be the dream it used to be" (2). Then the narrator continues to relate nostalgically the longing for an America built on freedom and equality for all. This could be the dream of the author himself. Wagner states of the author, "Like his first masters Whitman and Sandburg, like his fellow black Toomer, and like so many other American poets of the period, Lan...

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...tion in Depression" (Ramperstad 371). Commenting on this poem and its author, Langston Hughes, Ramperstad observes, "Perhaps his finest poem of the thirties combined his will to revolution with his Whitman-like nostalgia for a vanishing America." Hughes gives us a richer insight of American idealism, American realism, and what, "America will be!" (73).


Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. "Let America Be America Again." _Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing_. 4th ed. Eds. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1995. 723-24.

Rampersad, Arnold. "Langston Hughes." _Voices & Visions: the Poet in America_. Ed. Helen Vendler. New York: Random House, 1987. 352-93.

Wagner, Jean. "Langston Hughes." _Black Poets of the United States_. Trans. Kenneth Douglas. Chicago: U of Illinois P, 1973, 385-474.


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