A Deeper Look: Langston Hughes's 'Ballad of the Landlord' Essay

A Deeper Look: Langston Hughes's 'Ballad of the Landlord' Essay

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Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes wrote the poem “Ballad of the Landlord” in 1940, a time of immense discrimination against people of African descent. The poem details an account of a tenant, later found out to be an African American, who is dissatisfied with his rental property. The tenant is politely asking the landlord to make the needed repairs on the realty, but instead the landlord demands to be paid. The tenant refuses to pay the rent, and the police are called after a threat is made towards the landlord. The police arrest the tenant; he is jailed for ninety days with no bail. Langston Hughes’s “Ballad of the Landlord” is a startling poem that underlines the discrimination African Americans had to cope with in the nineteen-forties by illustrating an account of an African American tenant’s troubles with a Caucasian landlord through the use of theme, dialect, tone and multiple speakers.
Racism and discrimination are problems many African Americans had to face in the 1940s; Hughes uses this aspect as the major theme in his poem “Ballad of the Landlord.” It is apparent that the tenant is discriminated against by the landlord, the police and the newspaper. For example, the newspaper shows only one side of the issue especially in the headline: “MAN THREATENS LANDLORD” (31). The tenant’s reasons for threatening the landlord were valid, although not legal, because the landlord treated the tenant unfairly by not fixing the house the tenant was renting. The tenant was angry, as expected, because the landlord was being prejudice against the tenant and refusing to fix his living conditions. The landlord would possibly have fixed the house if the tenant were white, and all problems could have been avoided had race issues not be...


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...ites a short 33-line poem that simply shows the barriers between races in the time period when racism was still openly practiced through segregation and discrimination. The poem captures the African American tenant’s frustrations towards the landlord as well as the racism shown by the landlord. The poem is a great illustration of the time period, and it shows how relevant discrimination was in everyday life in the nineteen-forties. It is important for the author to use the selected literary devices to help better illustrate his point. Each literary device in the poem helps exemplify the author’s intent: to increase awareness of the racism in the society in the time period.




Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. “Balled of the Landlord”. An Introduction to Literature. Ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. 16th ed. New York: Longman, 2011. 765-766. Print.

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A Deeper Look: Langston Hughes's 'Ballad of the Landlord' Essay

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