Analysis of "The Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes

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Analysis Of “The Theme For English B” By Langston Hughes

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I chose to construct my essay on the poem “The theme for English B” by one of the best known African-American poet Langston Hughes. I picked this specific poem because it was as if I was reading one of my own work that I had written in a parallel universe where I was born as a gifted poet. Although I did not grow up in Harlem or in that time period, every word was resonating to my own personal journey. This is the exact mindset I fell into when I first came to the U.S., that one year of high school and now here. Being that one outsider that came from a totally different background and culture, and trying to transfer my thoughts and emotions in a word and way others can understand and relate to–now that’s one heck of a quest. It is not really about the language, grammar or any other skill related factors that makes it difficult, but the missing commonality. I am not denying the existence of some shared experience and at one point we might have had the same ancestor. But nature and civilization situated us in different communities; choices and decisions took as through different experiences. The history we hold and the lack of consistent communication afterwards gives rise to barriers to form connection with an alien compared to the flawless manner we could have communicated with someone in our community.

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The poem began with what seems to be a straightforward instruction from Hughes’s instructor. The reasoning he Putting “instructor” at the top is in itself a symbol for authority and highness. The following four line onset the rest of the poem, the italic font indicates that it is indeed a direct quote of his in structure with a poetic twitch. Hughes had some difficulties defining his true self as it is, but most of all he was doubtful of the extent to which the instructor would understand his writing due to the obvious difference in race, which stands out when considering the racial segregation during that period in America.

The poem, which turned out to be his original assignment, is not one of those formal poems with meters and structure, rather seems like a freestyle with a rhythm. He played a bit with imagery, symbolism and allusion, but allegory was the primary tool he used to convey his message. The use of imagery began when he starts narrating his life-story in the second stanza. We can already picture Hughes with the two descriptive information he mentioned about himself: “twenty-two, colored” but those descriptions are not only imagery. He purposely used the word colored rather than black or African-American, because it evokes the real experience of racial segregation as the word was printed on signs to denote the separated facilities for white and black people. He further intensified the situation when he mentioned he was the only colored student in a class full of white students; we can only imagine the feeling of isolation he must have had experienced. Line 8- 14 are imaginary description of his former high school, the college and the dorm he resides in connected through geographical feature, cities and streets. He mentioned Harlem trice in that one stanza which indicates his belongingness to the community, we’re able to see the frustration and confusion, the frantic feeling that can sometimes come along with searching for an answer to this question.

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