Essay #1 Langston Hughes’ Poem “Let America Be America Again”
The paper’s central point is to evaluate and analyze Langston Hughes’ poem, Let America Be America Again. This poem is a mock celebration and pursuit of a better future. This is the main cause of migration. Migration is a topic that can be studied at all levels of humanity. Analyzing many immigrant texts and minorities, we find a trend where immigrants are better able to adapt to the narrative’s difficulties. Minorities are not as able. The ability to integrate into the dominant culture can directly correlate to faith and belief in America’s dream (Dollard p. 356). This dream is mocked by the poet who criticizes the country’s notion of hope as being for the rich and not the poor. The poet still hopes and tries to imagine a future where the American dream could be realized.
The main idea Langston Hughes’ Poem
The poem’s dramatic conflict remains in the choice between hope and despair. Some people did realize the American dream over the long-term. They traveled long distances to find a place they could rest. It was a place where they could work hard and prosper. They quickly adapted to the American culture, and realized that it was more like a soup bowl than a melting pot. They were able to preserve the differences and details of their culture, even though they knew they would soon be integrated into the cultural norms of the new country. It should be noted that while the original generation remained outsiders, the generations to follow would easily integrate into the mainstream. The poet speaks for them, but this dream is not realized by the majority. It’s not only for African Americans, but all people who have dreams of coming to the US (Dollard p. 355).
Langston Hughes, the poet of the poem, identifies with the community of hopeless hopefuls. He is a representative of a group who are “Seeking a home where he himself is free.” (Hughes, p. 78) The conflict arises when this home isn’t found. Thus, the poet states “Let it be the dream it used to be”. He believes America is the name for the land that will one day become his home. He said, “O, let my land be a land where Liberty/ Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,/ But opportunity is real, and life is free,/ Equality is in the air we breathe.” (Hughes, 78)
The bigger picture is however much more complicated. The US can be described as a “salad bowl” rather than a “meat pot”, since members from different cultures, races, languages, and colours work together while keeping their individual identities intact. There are some who believe there should be one American culture that everyone must embrace. This culture is mainly English-flavored and multiracial children find it difficult at first. Drakes, p.125. To limit intolerance in America, policies must be made that allow for more freedom in religious and racial practice (Drakes).
These policies would allow all cultures to perform their rituals without permission from authorities. They should also be free to express their identity in terms dress codes and etiquette. It is clear that racism of any kind cannot be avoided. Therefore, it is more important to recognize the US’s unification of diversity as it represents long-term success as a nation. It is obvious that when diverse religions and races are merged into a sense of one nation, each person would feel responsible for their country.
The poet sees the larger picture as a process of thought and emphasizes the dark side. With sarcasm, he says, “I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,/ 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/ Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.” (Hughes, p. 79) The poet’s words almost reveal that one is being pushed too hard, and is becoming more and is becoming angry by the day by the days. His syntax like “And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came” makes him identifiable to most of the sufferers of the American dream.
The modern context allows us to see the whole picture. The modern world is accepting and celebrating diversity in America. It is evident and convincing evidence. Because there are many creeds, races, languages, and colors operating simultaneously in the same areas at the same moment and space, this is called diversity. This wouldn’t have been possible if government wasn’t in a democratic mode. The true nature of democracy yields opportunities for all and we can see a lot of diversity within the country (Goddard p.78).
Bilingual individuals may also have full access to their native language. It can be said, for example, that many of the Spanish-speaking immigrants to the US speak fluently in their native language and use it at work. Although it is true that some people believe English should be the only language in business, that is not yet fulfilled. It is clear that bilingual people are comfortable speaking their native language and have no problems with it. There are instances when language difficulties can be problematic, but these people quickly learn the language to solve them.
The most important aspect of religious diversity that can impact the potential challenges multicultural children face in the U.S. is the level of religious belief within the household. Children are taught to follow certain rules and will be expected to participate in religious rituals, prayers, or practices. The religion of the children is their identity and their backbone. It will guide them in how they live their lives. This is what the poet felt and he wrote in support of individualism and freedom in the contexts of identity (Goddard pp. 76-7).
It can be concluded that the poem is about the American dream, which was not possible for lower-class Americans. It speaks of the equality and freedom that all immigrants hoped for, but never got. Hughes’ poem is not just about African Americans but also other minorities. Hughes’s poem not only criticizes America’s unfair living conditions but also conveys hope that the American Dream will soon be realized.
Essay #2 – The American Dream Or American Illusion: Hughes’ Perspective
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. He was a poet, novelist, and scholar who embodied the subtle status African-American culture. Hughes was an exceptional poet in that he tried to convey the voices of black America, as well as the culture, lifestyle and challenges involved in black American life. Hughes gained a deep understanding of America’s dream and its state through his writing, experience, and uncanny empathy. Hughes was able, more specifically, to speak out for the American dream of black Americans, which was very different from the American dream. Hughes portrays a downtrodden dream that Hughes describes through strong depictions of poverty, prejudice, and obscurity. This dream is for those who cannot even attain rights like equality and liberty. These people often lose their dreams or forget about them. Hughes doesn’t believe that all hope is lost. Hughes believes that even though the American dream subjects are often without possession, dignity, or respect, they can still achieve their goals with hard work, dedication, and time. Hughes presents the meaning of America’s dream for the disenfranchised through works like “As I Grew Older,” I, Too,” American Heartbreak,” and “Let America Be America Again.” He also discusses the challenges to it and explains the current context of America’s dream in relation to society.
Original publication in 1925, “As I Grew Older” refers directly to the dream of the narrator. This poem is about the difficulties of facing obstacles along the way to success. Although the poem is not intended to be taken in cultural context, it is clear that “As I Grew older” focuses on the unique difficulties faced by African-Americans in finding equality in a world that rejects them. “As I Grew older” opens with a long-held dream that the speaker had, “Bright as the sun.” This old dream was never realized by the speaker.
My dream. The wall rose slowly, slowly, between me and my dreams. Rose till it touched the sky
The nature of the wall is not revealed throughout the poem. The wall is described as insurmountable and impossible to break down. The poem uses figurative language to show the struggle to break through the wall. It also serves to portray the speaker’s despair as he struggles futilely against terrible odds. The poem gives the wall a human face and is embodied in it. The wall gradually rises above the sun and the speaker is forced to lie down in the shadows. The speaker can be understood as resigning to his dreams and laying down. The speaker, lying in the shadows, cries, “my hands, dark hands!” which adds a racial dimension to his distress. The shadows could also be seen as a manifestation of the character’s dark skin. Now it is understood that the speaker represents all African Americans who had to give up their dreams because of persecution and discrimination. The speaker is seen as a shadow figure, and it can be seen that Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man draws a parallel between him and the African American narrator. The Invisible Man narrator states, “I am invisible, understand because people refuse to recognize me” (Ellison 3). This powerful description accurately reflects the struggles of the speaker in “As I Grew older” and allows for greater understanding of the obstacles that hinder the speaker from achieving his dream.
The speaker seems to be listless, pessimistic and subdued through line 23. The speaker shows a renewed vigor beginning at line 24. The speaker uses descriptive language and a strong determination to get rid of the wall.
My dark hands! Break through the wall! My dream is yours! Help me to break down this darkness, To crush this night, To make this shadow into a thousand sunlights, And into a thousand sun-worshipping dreams!
The speaker uses words that have strong consonant sounds like “shatter,”‘smash, and “break” to invoke feelings of empowerment (Morgan). The poem ends with vivid imagery of the wall falling apart and allowing the light to shine onto the speaker. The speaker could now pursue his dreams, with the wall crumbling.
“As I Grew Older,” does not depict the American dream for the disenfranchised in a positive light. The poem portrays a grim picture of black Americans’ success. The poem’s conclusion does not result in the speaker achieving his goals; rather, it indicates that even the possibility of reaching his dreams is possible. The speaker is still looking for opportunities, despite the possibility of the darkness being smashed and the shattering of the night. Langston Hughes’ view on the black American dream in the early 1900s is evident in “As I Grew Older”. It was not real and could only be achieved through dedicated, determined pursuit.
Hughes felt this way about black America. His viewpoint is summarized in “I Too”, a poem also titled “I, Too, Sign America”. Hughes’ poem “I, Too” describes Hughes as a speaker, a brother who must cook for friends when they visit. He is forced to the background and does not have the same rights as the rest of his household. This is a typical example of black America in Hughes’ time. Many African Americans were denied opportunities in many ways. Like the speaker in “As I Grew Older”, the narrator of “I, Too” longs to be in the forefront of opportunities. The narrator hopes to achieve greater opportunities by planning his actions and eating well.
Tomorrow I’ll be there when company arrives. No one will dare say to me, “Eat at the kitchen.” They’ll be embarrassed to see how beautiful and attractive I am.
The narrator demonstrates his “beautiful” merits in an attempt to get the opportunity and, within the context of the poem be accepted into America. It is quite telling that acceptance is sought after. Hughes makes it clear that the American dream is not for African Americans. Hughes supports the conclusion of “As I Grew Older” by suggesting that there is another step to pursuing the American dream: being able self-confident.
Hughes clearly believes there is an inherent, negative distinction between being an African American or being a White American in the American dream. Hughes’ intent is made very clear by “American Heartbreak,” a third poem. This short poem describes Hughes as an African American who is looking in from the outside. He is the blockade that hinders freedom from reaching its feet, a paradox America must confront. Hughes’ poems are now linked by a common theme: double consciousness. This concept is present in “American Heartbreak” as well as “I, Too”. W.E.B. coined the term. Du Bois refers to the difficulty of reconciling with two cultures that make up one’s identity. The concept of double consciousness can be described more precisely as follows:
“The history and strife of the American Negro is that of this struggle, this longing for self-consciousness, to merge his two selves into a better, more truer self. He does not want the older selves to be forgotten in this merging (bold script by G. Sh.). He doesn’t want to Africanize America. America has too many things to teach the world. He also does not want to whitewash his Negro blood to make it look like Americanism. Negro blood still has a message to the world. He wants to make it possible for men to be both American and Negro without being cursed or spit on by their fellows.
The double consciousness theory also implies that there is a separation between the self of a person and how he views himself. This would result in lower self-perceptions and self-esteem for the victims, disenfranchised participants of double consciousness psychology (Shaduri p. 89).
Hughes proposed a solution to allow black America to have real dreams. Hughes’ poem, “Let America Be America Again,” outlines his solution. “Let America Be America Again” is a plea to return to American ideals. It also serves as a description of the sad realities of American life for those at the bottom of American society. Hughes opens the poem by stating the essence of American ideals. Hughes speaks of a land in which “opportunity” and “equality are real” but Hughes also writes some eye-opening lines.
I have never experienced equality nor freedom in this “homeland for the free”.
Hughes uses the phrase “homeland” in the poem repeatedly, putting quotation marks around it. This makes a powerful statement. Hughes continues to describe disenfranchised groups in America, such as the “bearing slavery’s scars” black man, the “driven from his country” red man and the “clutching on to hope” immigrant. The poem’s end, like many Hughes poems, brings about an optimistic change. Hughes says, ironically, “Let America become America again, The land it has not yet been and yet must be.” In fact, the last half of Hughes’ poem is a call to disenfranchised people to create a homeland for the free. Hughes appeals to “Negros,” Indians, and “poor men”, to help them take back America and become empowered. Only then will the disenfranchised be able to realize their American dreams and achieve their American dream. The poem’s closing lines support this idea:
We, the people must redeem the land, the mines and the plants and the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain – All, the length of these great green states – Make America again!
Hughes concludes “Let America Be America Again” by declaring his intention to empower the poor. Without their actions, no change can be made. Hughes believes that the American dream is impossible without intentional change.
Langston Hughes was a staunch advocate for American change throughout his entire career. Langston Hughes wanted to see all Americans, especially the underprivileged, move closer to their dreams. Hughes believed the American dream was possible, but he also believed there wasn’t one for the poor and marginalized populations he wrote about. Hughes’ writings were, in essence, a call for action for these people. Hard work and dedication are required for disadvantaged Americans to reach their goals. It would take a lot of effort to even be allowed to follow their dreams and put themselves in a position where they can benefit from the opportunities that are available. It is clear that he believed that these people must take action, not the government or other higher-ranking levels of society. This view might seem outdated in light of recent events. However, it sheds light on many of the problems faced by disadvantaged Americans during much of the 20th Century. Hughes’ writings still have relevance in today’s context. It is evident that not everyone has the same opportunities and it is difficult to give every person the same chance.