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Explication of hughes’ weary blues

Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” is structured and reads like a blues song, being an end in itself as the song the persona in the poem was singing. The rhyme and rhythm when the poem is read aloud is melodious and languid because of the long vowel sounds as in croon, night, light at the beginning of the poem. It suggests that the persona singing the weary blues is feeling passive, as though brought down and heavy by the burden he is carrying, the weariness.

The dramatic reality of the poem is a Negro playing a blues tune on his piano expressing his unhappiness, and afterwards goes to bed like a rock or a dead man. The poem dramatizes the conflict between a man and his situation – in this case a black man against his oppression. Indeed, the blues is a musical genre that the African Americans used to assert their identity and culture especially in a time when society was harsh and discriminating. This blues poem then, represents the black man’s woes – both figuratively in the poem and reflectively in history. It is a cry of a man who has been fighting until the end.

The blues became the black man’s escape and expression, one of the few things they can do on their own right without being persecuted. The poem began with “Droning a drowsy syncopated tune” which suggests that perhaps this black man has been drinking or too intoxicated with the day’s events, which is not far fetched considering that he is depressed and wants to escape his situation as later in the poem he says he wish he had died. The use of the word “syncopated” in the poem also brings to mind the irony of having a song that instead of being simply melodious, is also gloomy.

But when we look at it, the blues originally meant melancholy and sadness, and it only seems fitting that the piano player plays it to show his depressed mood. The piano player is so depressed the poem even describes the piano as moaning the problems of the black man too. Where would the black man’s melancholy root from though? From an idea of home perhaps, an image of Africa? The black man is obviously unsatisfied with his life and situation, there is nothing said about his condition but focused more on his sadness and weariness.

In fact, the tired man played with all his heart and soul with his remaining strength, played himself out that in the end he “slept like a rock or a man that is dead”. Following the poem’s progression, the black man appears to be at the end of his journey. In the first part he is carrying on the weary blues tune as he did a lazy sway down on Lenox Avenue. Later he plays the music on a piano, but the imagery calls to mind a man who has reached his end, with the stars and the moon going out, and the black man stopped playing and went to bed, but the Weary Blues still continued on his head.

He wishes to be dead instead of being oppressed, and he no longer sings the tune because he’s too tired but nothing is changed and it still continues, and he is never at rest. He is alive but he is dead because he is enslaved. He sleeps like a rock out of exhaustion of mining and plowing and working for masters, and in that final image Hughes cements the message that the Black people are dead as long as they are oppressed. This becomes then a poem whose message is to stand up lest they shall perish.

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