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Exploring America Through Literary Technique

Langston Hughes is one of the most prominent poets of the Harlem Renaissance. The poets offer vivid imagery, complex themes, and an exploration of the African American experience. “Let America be America Again” Langston Hughes is excellent and representative poems of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes, in “Let America be America Again”, is inspired by his own experiences and really disappointments America. C. K. Doreski, in “Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture, 1942-62,” states “Hughes often drew literary inspiration from his community journalism.

These occasional pieces, without the narrative autonomy of Simple’s aestheticized space or their journalistic context, struggle to survive their historical remove” (Doreski, 1998, p. 242). Growing up in a country which claims to offer freedom, liberty, and prosperity and having access to none of it creates a frustration, which Hughes shares. Through the use of the use of basic literary devices Hughes explores the American experience. Langston Hughes are born in the middle of the South.

Joseph McLaren, in Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943, reflects Although Langston Hughes’s literary reputation rests securely on his achievements as a poet, he also earned substantial recognition in the field of drama, “which, second only to poetry, was his favorite genre. ” (McLaren, 1997, p. 1). He lived on and off between his parents and family until out of high school. Tyrone Tillery, in A Black Poet’s Struggle for Identity A Black Poet’s Struggle for Identity, believes “Hughes spoke passionately about his disappointment with blacks who were afraid of being themselves.

Their tendency to ape white ways of doing things threatened to choke Negro art. “(Tillery, 1992, p. 102). Hughes was influenced by a country which told him everyday he was not a citizen, not worthy, not equal, and just a commodity. Hughes utilize many literary devices to create and develop his viewpoints about the American experience. Hughes uses figurative language in the form of repetition. Hughes uses the repetition of specific phrases, which are repeated again and again, in the poem to make a specific point.

Hughes uses a more laid back structure. His poem uses a free verse which means there is very little structure and reads like a man’s inner thoughts. He lived during the Harlem Renaissance, experienced oppression, the lack of promised freedom, prosperity, and independence – he mourns for a “land that has never been yet. ”. Langston Hughes’, in “Let America be America Again,” uses repetition to “I am” to accompany his lines to express the feeling of personal loss and dream unattained. Hughes states “I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land, / I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek / And finding only the same old stupid plan”. He writes about how each of these men are living a hard life without any of the opportunities that America said she could offer and are losing hope for the future. Just as McKay describes the good and bad of America, Hughes writes about what America is compared to what America should or could be. Hughes writes “O, let America be America again– / And yet must be–the land where every man is free.

” This lines expresses the potential all men can be truly free in America but it does not exist yet. Through the use of figurative language Hughes and McKay expresses their viewpoints about the America experience. Each author also uses a unique structure to develop their viewpoint. The structure of “Let America be America Again” plays a huge role in conveying the American experience. Hughes also uses structure to write about his view of the American experience. Hughes employs the use of free verse in his poem “Let America be American Again”.

This poem is written like confessional, the reflection of thoughts inside of a man’s head. The speaker express his opinions, his frustration, pain, and hopes for the future. It reads like a man speaking, and is much less formal then McKay’s poem “America”. Hughes writes “O, let America be America again– / The land that never has been yet– / And yet must be–the land where every man is free. ” Hughes laments that America has so much potential and should strive to be what it boasts it is. The land of the free, were all men are equal, and have the ability to seek out new opportunities.

This conversational style creates a dialogue between the narrator of the poem and the audience. The listener’s response contains the main idea of the piece, comparing the democratic ideal to the conditions of those who are victims because of race, age, or economic status. The author’s careful use of alliteration in phrases such as “pushed apart” (19) and “slavery’s scars” (20) emphasizes the struggles and alienation experienced by less fortunate Americans. This history of America is also central to this each poem.

Steven Tracy, in A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes, explains “Hughes, a product of the African American and American 1920s, helped produce four subsequent decades of literary history. In addition to the decade of the twenties—one into which his innovative poetry of blues and jazz emerged—the thirties provided him with a lasting insight into the class inequities of the United States” (Miller, 2004, p. 24). Hughes comments on how the American experience creates uniquely strong, and independent character in those individuals that live there.

In “Let America Be America Again” Langston focuses on the concepts central to the American experience. America is the land of opportunity and equality. . However, Hughes believes that this oppression is a symbol of America not living up to its potential. He believes America has false pride and should re-evaluate the way it treats the working man and minorities. Lamonda Horton-Stallings, in “Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-43,” explains” Hughes also implemented a great deal of historical research to his plays, used racially diverse casts, and employed dialogue poetry, music, and song into his scripts.

“(Horton-Stallings, 1999, p. 133). These poems were written during a time civil unrest and offer a realistic viewpoint about how America was and might still be. This problems are not new and continue into today. Langston Hughes is an influential African American poet who through the use of the literary devices creates and develops their own commentary on the American experience. Once the underprivileged Americans have been identified, the narrator may then rejoin the original concept of the poem in a climactic depiction of what America could be if, in fact, the dreams of all people could be realized.

He concludes that, “We, the people, must redeem/ Our land, the mines, the plants, the rivers, /The mountains and the endless plain-/All, all that the stretch of these great green states–/And make America again! ” (77-81). The author allows the poem to crescendo to a resounding climax: an America offering hope that all may realize the dreams in their hearts.


Doreski, C. K. (1998). Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture, 1942-62. MELUS, 23(3), 242. Horton-Stallings, L. (1999). Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-43. The Western Journal of Black Studies, 23(2), 133. McLaren, J. (1997). Langston Hughes: Folk Dramatist in the Protest Tradition, 1921-1943. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Tillery, T. (1992). A Black Poet’s Struggle for Identity A Black Poet’s Struggle for Identity. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. Tracy, S. C. (Ed. ). (2004). A Historical Guide to Langston Hughes. New York: Oxford University Press.

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