Essay about Theme For English B By Langston Hughes

Essay about Theme For English B By Langston Hughes

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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 person in his poem suggests he is writing a lyric poem, a genre “of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings, typically spoken in the first person” (Wikipedia). Ironically, Hughes has only one problem; he lives in a society that makes it very difficult to do exactly that. 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,...


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... this way because a teacher is a person who should value new ideas and change and perhaps might agree with him. He feels that “As I learn from you, you learn from me- although your older- and white” (Line 39) and from another point of view, the teacher could have had a background where he was raised not accepting African Americans and sadly, might disagree with Hughes all together.
In conclusion, “Theme for English B” is not just another assignment that Hughes completed for a grade in an English class, as the title might imply, but a publication worthy piece where he explores the pressing issues of his time of racism, segregation, and social issues using a mix of rhetoric techniques and first person to create a lyric poem. His lack of form and meter enhances his thoughts and makes way for him to show us his conscious, showing his point of view in an innovative way.

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