This chapter attempts to focus upon the problem of identity that confronted the African-Americans in America. Thus it investigates the African-American’s identity dilemma as shown in the poetry of Claude McKay and Langston Hughes. At the same time, it provides a solution for the African-American’s problem of estrangement and identity crisis. But while McKay’s self-rejection of his blackness urges him to trace the quest for identity in exile, Hughes’ self acceptance of his blackness enables him to reconcile with the white oppressors who stripped the black race from its identity. Moreover, it sheds light upon the psychological consequences that resulted from the violation of the African-American’s identity. Furthermore, this chapter shows the African-American’s self debasement, helplessness, and double consciousness that emanate from the sense of uprootedness. After experiencing the long and excruciating experience of slavery as well as Jim Crow segregation in America, the African-Americans suffered from a sense of uprootedness due to their loss of identity. Thus by accepting the distorted image that is imposed upon him by the American society, the African-American is forced to lead a life in double consciousness. Thus, the black race suffered from a social estrangement and displacement in the American world: … a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts... ... middle of paper ... ...Moreover, the antithesis in “fine big house” and “shack” reflects the unbridgeable gulf between the two races. At the same time, it heightens the issue of segregation and racial discrimination which the African-Americans are suffering from. Meanwhile, words like “wonder”, “neither”, and “nor” show Hughes’ bitter sense of estrangement since he is unable to determine to which race he belongs. Thus, the poem is also a reminder by Hughes to his people of the tragic consequences of this social system on the mulatto offspring who have no place in either race. In this poem, Hughes dramatizes the inherent tensions of a mulatto who resents his mixed origins and ascribes his failure in life to it. Though blaming his parents at the beginning for his dilemma, Hughes ends by forgiving them and pitying himself for his dislocation and disenfranchisement from the American society.
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Writer and member of the 1920’s literary movement, Langston Hughes, in his autobiographical essay, Salvation, elucidates the loss of innocence and faith due to the pressure of accepting a concept that he has yet to acknowledge. Hughes’ purpose is to describe his childhood experience of the burden to be saved by Jesus, resulting in his loss of faith. He adopts a solemn, yet disappointing tone to convey his childhood event and argues the unqualified religious pressure.
...ce taking place within a limited audience, allowing it to grow and develop to eventually define the culture of the New Negro. The transcendent quality of the blues, featured in the poem by Langston Hughes, may be placed in opposition to McKay as there is undeniable value in shared experience. While the nature of blues music within the poem is undeniably black and meant to connect black people, the poem presents music as something that is important for expression and formulation of identity as a dynamic community. The two poems, in their depiction of the performances, propose different solutions to the black condition of isolation. While McKay suggests that the strength to counter oppression and alienation is present in the hidden capacity of the individual, Hughes presents a man who is kept alive through struggle and persistence fueled through a communal tradition.
When people migrate to America, they experience a cultural shock. Immigrants feel overwhelmed by the new language and culture. The struggle to adapt to the new environment forces them to try to fit into the American stereotype. In The Soul of Black Folk, Du Bois says that the way white Americans view African Americans creates a tension on African American social identity. This tension is also seen on immigrant’s social identity once they migrate to the United States. Immigrants struggle to reconcile two cultures with a multi-faceted perspective of self, which creates a double consciousness.
In The Soul of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois talks about the struggles that the African Americans faced in the twentieth century. Du Bois mentions the conflict that concepts such as the “double consciousness” (or duality), “the veil” and the “color-line” posed for Black Americans. In his book he says that African Americans struggle with a double consciousness. He explicates that African American are forced to adopt two separate identities. First they are black, and that identity pertains to the color of their skin, the second identity is the American identity. However, he continues that the American identity is tainted because it is that if being American now but were slaves first. In other words, the double consciousness is saying that black people
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” (Dubois 694).
The American Narrative includes a number of incidents throughout American history, which have shaped the nation into what it is today. One of the significant issues that emerged was slavery, and the consequent emancipation of the slaves, which brought much confusion regarding the identification of these new citizens and whether they fit into the American Narrative as it stood. In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B Dubois introduces the concept of double consciousness as “the sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others” (Dubois 3). This later became the standard for describing the African-American narrative because of the racial identification spectrum it formed. The question of double consciousness is whether African-Americans can identify themselves as American, or whether the African designation separates them from the rest of society. President Barack Obama and Booker T. Washington, who both emerged as prominent figures representing great social change and progress for the African-American race in America, further illustrate the struggle for an identity.
This image is the author’s perspective on the treatment of “his people” in not only his hometown of Harlem, but also in his own homeland, the country in which he lives. The author’s dream of racial equality is portrayed as a “raisin in the sun,” which “stinks like rotten meat” (Hughes 506). Because Hughes presents such a blatantly honest and dark point of view such as this, it is apparent that the author’s goal is to ensure that the reader is compelled to face the issues and tragedies that are occurring in their country, compelled enough to take action. This method may have been quite effective in exposing the plight of African-Americans to Caucasians. It can be easily seen that Hughes chooses a non-violent and, almost passive method of evoking a change. While Hughes appears to be much less than proud of his homeland, it is apparent that he hopes for a future when he may feel equal to his fellow citizens, which is the basis of the “dream” that has been
...the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with a second-sight in this American world,- a world which yields him no true self consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.*(215)
“I swear to the Lord, I still can't see, why Democracy means, everybody but me”. These are the words of Langston Hughes, a black writer and poet from the early twentieth century. This man was famous for his portrayal of the realities of black life and culture in America. Although some literary critics may feel that Hughes’s poetry presented an unattractive view of black life, his poetry demonstrated the reality of their lives. Many of Hughes’s poems stand out in their description of the black experience. Some of the poems that stand out include “Ku Klux,” “House In the World,” and “Children’s Rhymes.” These poems delve into the world of fear, segregation, and the lost innocence of black culture. These poems genuinely demonstrate the difficult lives most black people had to live.
Can you imagine yourself in a world where race wasn’t an issue.In a perfect society we wouldn’t be judged by our skin color, but by our abilities to contribute something positive to society. In 1903 W.E.B Dubois discussed in his work called, “In the Souls of Black Folk”, two concepts, double consciousness and the veil, where he tries to explain the inner turmoil felt by blacks attempting to fit into white America. Double consciousness forces us to view ourselves from our own standpoints, but we also look at ourselves as to how we are seen by others, because we are constantly being judged by the color of our skin. It also implies that some white Americans don’t see African American as true Americans, specifically due to the color of their skin. The veil, our skin color may be different and will never change, but we have the ability to see things in ourselves, and our communities, but also how society sees it at the same time. Double consciousness forces blacks to not view themselves from their own unique ways but to view themselves
Dubois divided double consciousness into a few different categories to make it very clear to the people who do not deal with this issue. Not only did he address the issue of racism and oppression, but he gave a vivid blueprint of how each component in society has affected and destroyed the African Americans in this country. He supports this claim by expressing how being black in America automatically makes one live in the veil. African
W.E.B. Dubois attempts to explain the internal turmoil experienced by African Americans endeavoring to co-exist in a Caucasian dominated culture. His concept of life lived behind the veil of race and the consequence of double-consciousness lends to the experience of racial distinctions in America (p. 116). African Americans live with two differing identities that are inherently complex. The first experience is that of having a sense of self (identifying with one's ethnic roots) and the other is having an identity that is ascribed to the person of color through the historical lingering's of slavery. Double consciousness, according to DuBois, is considered the reality of one's life being lived out from behind the veil. The idea of race and whiteness, DuBois contends, is a system of practices, rather than a race, therefore having no claim to dominance (p. 118).
Langston Hughes was probably the most well-known literary force during the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first known black artists to stress a need for his contemporaries to embrace the black jazz culture of the 1920s, as well as the cultural roots in Africa and not-so-distant memory of enslavement in the United States. In formal aspects, Hughes was innovative in that other writers of the Harlem Renaissance stuck with existing literary conventions, while Hughes wrote several poems and stories inspired by the improvised, oral traditions of black culture (Baym, 2221). Proud of his cultural identity, but saddened and angry about racial injustice, the content of much of Hughes’ work is filled with conflict between simply doing as one is told as a black member of society and standing up for injustice and being proud of one’s identity. This relates to a common theme in many of Hughes’ poems that dignity is something that has to be fought for by those who are held back by segregation, poverty, and racial bigotry. The poems “Visitors to the Black Belt”, “Note on Commercial Theatre”, “Democracy”, and “Theme for English B” by Hughes all illustrate the theme of staying true to one’s cultural identity and refusing to compromise it despite the constant daily struggle it meant to be black in an Anglo centric society.
“BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it….instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? They say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil (Du Bois 1)?” In “The Souls of Black Folk” W.E.B. Du Bois raises awareness to a psychological challenge of African Americans, known as “double - consciousness,” as a result of living in two worlds: the world of the predominant white race and the African American community. As defined by Du Bois, double-consciousness is a:
Langston Hughes poems “Mother to Son” and “I, too, Sing America” both document the life trials that African Americans faced due to bigotry in the early 1900’s. The uses of an metaphor and dialogue key into the overall aspect of Hughes poems a head held high and perseverance can help one through the hardest times. The reader can infer that the Hughes is expressing the true value of African Americans in the society and he sees a brighter future for for all if they keep fighting for their rights.The poetic devices work to emphasis the real message of Hughes poem’s.