Langston Hughes Summary

Satisfactory Essays
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...

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...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.