Langston Hughes Theme For English B Analysis

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Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B” is a rhetorical poem in which Hughes asks the question about his social and racial status in society. Growing up through the First World War and took part in the Civil Rights Era, Hughes experienced racial tensions while going to school at Columbia University in a time when higher education was still for the affluent and dominantly white. His poem is a reflection of his reaction from a teachers’ writing prompt which influenced him to write on his racial and social tensions which is enhanced by his structure, rhetorical questions, and his use of first person. The speaker in this poem is Hughes himself, who is responding to a teacher’s prompt in which it says to express himself freely. The use of first His teacher is white, Hughes is African American. He is in a class where he is “the only colored student” (Line 10) in contrast to his other schooling, where the schools were predominantly African American. He logically concludes: “So will my page be colored that I Write?” (Line 27). This question posed by Hughes attacks the consciousness of the intended audience, in this case his teacher, asking whether or not he or she will end up judging Hughes’ work based not on the integrity and craftsmanship but by the color of his skin. Although he points out the similarities between people of different races, Hughes is clearly certain his page will be judged not as a “white” paper. He points out how he likes to “eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.” (Line 21) These are qualities shared by every single person, independent of race. They are universal. Often times it is said the teacher will learn as much from the student as the student learns from the teacher, and in this case Hughes uses that to define what is “American” (Line 33). In Line 29, “it” refers to the universal themes mentioned earlier, subtly slipping in his ideas over and over again. His emphasis on the italicized “not” (Line 25) helps to

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