Since the beginning of our country's history, people of African descent have continuously undergone persecution by those of European descent. Although the state of racial affairs in the 1990's is an enormous improvement from the days of slavery, racial tension still exists. In the twentieth century, no time surpasses the 1950's and 1960's in relation to racial injustice and violence. In every facet of American life, prejudice and racial inequality exude during these tumultuous twenty years. Langston Hughes, an African-American writer, exposes the divisions between Caucasians and African Americans in the social construct of the educational system during this chaotic time period. In Hughes' poem, "Theme for English B," he discusses racism through the stage of a university in America, using narrative and poetic devices to express the feelings and emotions involved in the struggle for equality.
The poem's structure divides into three main stanzas with a one-line form at the end. Written in free verse, the poem is unencumbered from restrictions regarding its structure and rhyme scheme. The use of free verse adds to the poem's stream-of-consciousness flow. The rhythm found in the poem is a random mix of beats and stressed and unstressed syllables. Reading the poem aloud, the rhythm resonates like a jazz song. In addition to the three main stanzas, seven major sections appear as the writing progresses. The social situation of the 1950's is the basis for the poem. The antecedent scenario suggests a newly segregated university and an African-American student attempting to break racial barriers. The speaker of the poem feels uncomfortable in his class of all Caucasian students. Isolated in class, he is overwhelmingly reminded of his d...
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... the new kid, the only kid with glasses, or of a different religion or culture. Through his use of structure, the audience feels all of the emotions the writer. As the writer goes through his day and starts to write, the audience understands his trials and tribulations with the help of stanza forms and content. The shape of the poem and the form used follows his life through the confines of the paper, makes his way throught the trials and tribulations of African-American life in the 1950's.
Scaife, Ross. "A Glossary of Rhetorical Terms with Examples." URL: http://www.uky.edu/ArtsSciences/Classics/rhetoric.html.
Turco, Lewis. The New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics. Hanover: University Press of New England; 1986.
Vendler, Helen. Poems, Poets, Poetry: An Introduction and Anthology. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press; 1997.
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