Most of Langston's works were influenced by the renaissance period when things were tough for the black Americans. He wrote most of his works when the world was experiencing a great change in terms of literature. This paper will examine and critically analyze some of the Langston Hughes short stories. The chosen short stories to be analyzed in this paper include; Thank you, Maam, The Salvation and The Blues Im Playing.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in the United States in 1902. He was born to African- American parents who were slaves of the white man. His mother, Caroline Mercer (Carrie) was a school teacher. Langston Hughes grew up in the Midwestern towns. Langston was raised by his grandmother, Mary Patterson Langston after his parents got separated. His pride for African/ black people was greatly influenced by his grandmother who raised her. Is poetry was also influenced by his surrounding he lived. He received a lot of inspirations from his grandmother who acted as his mentor. He lived in Kansas and after the death of his grandmother, Langston moved in to live wit is family friends; James and Mary Reed. After two years, Langston reunited with his mother who later remarried in Lincoln, Illinois. There he began to attend school where he was elected as the class poet. He began his writing while still in school where he wrote for the school newspaper. He also began to write some of his short stories while still in school. For example, he wrote his first jazz poetry When Sues Wears Red while still in high school. He was never in good relationship with his father and after completing his high school, he moved in to live with his father in Mexico while trying to convince him to help him with his plans of joining Columbia University. Before joining university, Langston worked in various places doing odd jobs before he obtained the white collar job. At first he worked in England in the 1920s and later moved back to live with his mother in Washington D.C where he later became a personal assistant to Carter G. Woodson. As a personal assistant, he never got time for his writing works and therefore, he quit the job and became a busboy at Wardman Park Hotel where he met Vachel Lindsay who was a poet. Vachel was impressed by his poems and he published Langstons poem. A year later he joined Lincoln University where he earned his B.A Degree. Langston Hughes died in 1967 as a result of abdominal surgery complications. Most of his works encouraged people especially the black people to be proud of their race. Most of is works depicted the suffering which African- American people were experiencing during the time.
Analysis of Thank you, Maam by Langston Hughes
The story Thank you, Maam was written in the late 1930s when the discrimination amongst the races was at the pic. The story is about a teenage boy, Roger who attempts to rob a woman, Mrs. Jones but fails. Mrs. Jones catches Roger and drags him to her home where she enquires the reason why the boy wanted to rob her. Roger informs Mrs. Jones that he is an orphan and that he would wish to possess some blue suede shoes. Mrs. Jones sympathizes with the young boy and instead of convicting him, she gives him some money to buy the shoes he desired to have. The young boy goes out without appreciating and thanking Mrs. Jones. Mrs. Jones is very kind in that she lets the boy to go and even gives him some money so that he could get what he desired to have. The story has employed various styles or techniques and these include; first, the short story is majorly written in idiomatic form where Hughes has employed the urban language. The colloquial dialogue that the author has employed in the story is one of the traditional African- American oral technique. Hughes has also used simple sentences in his narration and in the dialogue. The deceptive simple sentence used in the story makes it easier to be understood easily. The main character in the short story is Mrs. Jones who is kind and generous despite the environmental condition. The state of the surrounding is all about race discrimination and it is very hard to find someone with the heart that Mrs. Jones has. The theme of kindness and care. Characters in the story can be depicted in various forms. For example, Roger can be viewed as beneficiary recipient while Mrs. Jones can be seen as the actor. In the dialogue between Mrs. Jones and the young boy, Roger, Mrs. Jones says I would teach you right from wrong. In this phrase, the first pronoun stands for the actor, Mrs. Jones and the second pronoun you stands for the recipient, Roger. Mrs. Jones has a caring and kind personality. Instead of calling for the police to arrest the boy, she takes him to her home. She gives him food and water to clean himself up. In the analysis of the short story thank you, Maam has shown that the linguistic features of a text can help the reader understand the meaning of the text in detail. Through the language features one is able to understand the personality of a character in a text.
Analysis of Salvation by Langston Hughes
The short story Salvation revolves around a twelve- year old boy. The young boy misunderstood the salvation talked by her aunt, Reed. The story is about how the religious environment shaped and influenced the young boys life. The story begins with the young boy narrating how he was saved from sin. However, he goes further to explain that the salvation he received was not the one his aunt intended. The narrator explains that it happened when a famous religious revival was held in town and is aunt used to attend the revival every day at night. On the final day of the revival everyone was invited including the children and that is when the young boy got the opportunity to attend the revival. The young boy was surprised with what was happening to him because what he waited to see could not come. According to his aunts explanation, when he receives salvation he would see a light that meant that Jesus had come into his life. The young boy got surprised the more because what was happening to people in the church was strange to him. He could see some people even crying but with him nothing was taking place. People were moving to get prayers from the pastor but with him he refused to move because he had not seen Jesus which his aunt talked about. He get influenced with his friend, Westley and his ideas. He wondered if Westley had not been struck dead by God for lying then even him he can lie of seeing Jesus. He decides to go and get prayers and claim that he had received salvation. He starts to cry and people thinks that he was actually possessed with the Holy Spirit, but actually he was crying because he had lied about the salvation. The salvation talked about by the young boy is not the real salvation which people were actually receiving in the church. Hughes used to the narrator to explain the experience of getting saved caused disappointments to the young boy. It also shows the guilt that results from the fake salvation he claim to have received. Out of his lying the young boy develops guilt that results to his crying. Hughes has also sown the influence which parents/guardians or adults have on the children. They do not care to investigate what actually these children are undergoing and what they want. The Aunt believes that the young boy is really saved and she keeps on giving him stories to convince him get salvation. Hughes has shown the mistrust and disbelief that the boy develops as a result of attending the revival. The boy gains a belief that actually Jesus does not exist since he never struck him dead for lying to the whole congregation about his salvation. The story is contradicting with the title. The title suggest that everything in the story should relate to what is actually happening. But with what happens, the salvation talked about in the story is not what happens in the story. How the boy interpreted the salvation is opposite to that which the church believes in. the narration that the author has employed to write his work depict the feelings and emotions to the reader because it reveals the experiences more effective.
Analysis of The Blues Im Playing by Langston Hughes
The short story The Blues Im Playing is about a young artist. Oceola Jones is a pianist who is sponsored by Mrs. Dora Ellsworth. Mrs. Ellsworth is a widow who lost her husband. Mrs. Ellsworth has no child and yet she has so much wealth left to her by her husband. Mrs. Ellsworth has a problem of determining the exact place where beauty lies. The death of her husband left her with freedom to enjoy her beauty and pleasure. She decides to invest in beauty; however, she gets confused whether to invest in the young artists or in their work. Mrs. Ellsworth sponsors other artists also apart from the young girl, Oceola Jones. Apart from pianists, Oceola Mrs. Ellsworth sponsors other artists such as; painters and singers. What is not clear in her sponsorship is whether she is sponsoring the artists or their works. This is seen in how she has been carrying out her works. She has been sponsoring very attractive young male painters with poor painting abilities. On the other hand, she turns down other painters who are not attractive and yet they have attractive works. There is a conflict between the young pianist Oceola Jones and her sponsor, Mrs. Ellsworth. Oceola does not trust her boss. On the other hand, Mrs. Ellsworth is obsessed with the young artist, Oceola Jones. She wants to know all about Oceola and she even hires someone, Ormond Hunter to enquire about the young girls social life; who she spends time with and who she lives with. She directs Hunter to enquire if Oceola has a man living with her. Mrs. Ellsworth wants to separate Oceola from her world and the people she love to the world of artist where Mrs. Ellsworth desires. There is internal conflict amongst the characters in the story. The young Oceola is happy when she learns that she is not pregnant for her boyfriend before they are married. She claims that she will still be in music even if she is married and has a family. The patron, Mrs. Ellsworth has internal conflict about her sexuality. The fact that she does not have a child of her own makes her obsessed with the male artists. The way she treats artists is not the same. There are artists she hires because they are good looking and attractive but not their talent and she rejects those who have talents and yet do not look attractive. The story shows the differences and tension that the Blacks and the whites went through during the 20th century. This period was marked by the discriminations and mistreatments of the black Americans by the white people. The whites were trying to dominate the blacks by undermining their cultural practices and beliefs. Oceola Jones is a young black artist and her patron, Mrs. Ellsworth is a white woman who is arrogant and despises other peoples beliefs. This period marked the renaissance of many things especially the music sector. There was a conflict between the two genres of songs; jazz music and blues.
In conclusion, this paper has analyzed some of the Langston Hughes short stories. Most of Langstons works were influenced by the renaissance period when things were tough for the black Americans. This period was marked by high rate of social and economic discrimination by the white people. Africans were discriminated against race, gender and age. Literature acts as the mirror of the society; where it tells us what is happening in the society. Langston Hughes used his stories to depict the situation during the renaissance period. However, in most of the Hughes works, he sympathizes with those discriminate against. He also advocates for liberation.
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