Langston Hughes's I, Too and Countee Cullen's Incident Essay

Langston Hughes's I, Too and Countee Cullen's Incident Essay

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The poems, “I, Too” by Langston Hughes and “Incident” by Countee Cullen employ visual imagery, tone, literary devices such as hyperboles, symbolism, and foreshadowing in different ways to illustrate the public life interaction between two different races, and the private life of an African American’s internal struggle of not being able to fight against the prejudice towards them. Both poets share racism as their piece of life, and although dealing with racism is the central tension engaged in the poems, Cullen suggests that experiences can affect your view on life and change your attitude. Hughes on the other hand, proposes that with an optimistic attitude you can change the outcome of your future, and that your attitude is independent from past experiences.

“I, Too” and “Incident” are both are lyric poems. The “Incident” is more of a narrative that drifts on the past, while the speaker in “I, Too” instead thinks about the plausible future. Hughes wrote a free verse poem, which is ideal for envisioning the future because it leaves more flexibility for imagination. Cullen wrote a metrical verse poem – alternating between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimester – that consists of ballad stanzas to form an orderly structure with patterns just as a storyline does. An abrupt contact of irrational abhorrence was what inspired the “Incident”, while “I, Too” was inspired by racial segregation. The purpose of these poems was to see racism through an optimistic point of view, which Hughes successfully conveyed, and through the perspective of an innocent child, which Cullen had portrayed through his work. The poems are very typical, which is how the poets are able to gain empathy from readers. The poets were able to construct a self for th...

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..., which was demonstrated when the black child wanted the approval of the white child. However, Hughes’ speaker validates that we do not need admiration from others to feed to so-called appetite; which refers to self-satisfaction. These experiences affected the speakers in different ways; it impacted the speaker in “Incident” in a deconstructive way, whereas it impacted the speaker in “I, Too” in a constructive way.

Work Cited

Hughes, Langston “I, Too.” Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. 3rd ed. Ed. Helen Vendler.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 501-502. Print.
Cullen, Countee “Incident.” Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. 3rd ed. Ed. Helen Vendler.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 450. Print.
Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. 3rd ed. Ed. Helen Vendler. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. 183. Print.

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