Reflection on a Theme Raised by Langston Hughes Theme for English B.

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Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B is a poem that paints the image of a twenty year old African American student who is struggling to figure out certain facts about his life through a class assignment. The instructor had previously asked the class to spend the time after school that evening to write self-inspired poems, and which were to be presented in class the following day. The speaker uses this opportunity to write about himself. He however struggles a great deal trying to complete the assignment. First, he is not certain about the persona he is to assume in the poem. He is split between adopting the personage of a mainstream English student, ignoring his own race in the process, or stick to the real being he is, present a poem portraying his true culture and heritage. From the structure of the poem therefore, one theme that is apparent is the struggle with personal identity. Struggle for truth is also evident from the poem and complements the theme of struggle with personal identity.

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At the beginning of the poem, the instructor is seen directing the students to go home and spend the time before the next day to work on an assignment. He is also seen urging them to make sure that their assignments come from within their hearts, this way, they will ensure that the work is true. It however does not take long for the speaker to start doubting his teacher’s sentiments. Just the next stanza after the opening stanza, doubt begins to kick in. The speaker wonders whether the teacher’s instructions suit him as well now that he is the only one of his kind from his class. He says, I wonder if it’s that simple? (Hughes l. 1). He even advances to reveal to the readers some of the qualities that set him aside from the rest of the students in his class, and it is not the fact that he is the only student of color from his class. On top of being the only African American student, he also reveals that he is the only colored student from his class that lives in Harlem.

The battle with personal identity continues into the third stanza of the poem, only that this time round, the speaker seeks some comfort from those attributes that he know that are standard to him, and to the rest of the students from his class. He says, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love/ I like to work, read, learn, and understand life (Hughes l. 21-22). The speaker at this point expresses to his audience that he actually believes he still possesses a lot in common with the other students even though at the beginning, he had singed himself out of the contention. In so doing, the readers are alerted to Hughes’ traits as a persona going through a lot of dilemma trying to establish who he really is and how well he fits into his society. He holds that even though he is of an African American heritage, he believes that his ancestry does not define him as a person. In addition, he also believes that the fact that he is the only African American from his class and from Harlem, this does not make him any less significant that the rest of his classmates (Hughes l.25-26 and l. 17-18 respectively).

Regardless of all the dissimilarities between him and his classmates, the speaker seems to appreciate the fact they are all Americans sharing some common likes as well as purposes. At the end of the poem, the speaker seems to be finally in peace with his personality. He urges that the dissimilarity between him and the rest of his classmates can be used to their advantage, instead of using it to hurt each other. He says the racial difference can be recruited to inspire learning, and expansion of both diversity and increase of knowledge.

Hughes used a unique style to write this poem. A style that makes his poem easy to understand and relate with. Another thing that Hughes has to be accorded some credit for is his inimitable ability to express how exactly he feels in just a page of writing. A page is never going to be too difficult or too boring to read. This also positively contributes to the appeal of his poem. Hughes first draws the attention of his audience by including the introductory stanza, describing the purpose and instructions of the poem before proceeding to the first stanza. Thereafter, his poem, stanza after stanza, is loaded with points that a reader can interpret and relate to their own lives. Even though the stanzas are fairly short, they get the work done. This is a good illustration of how much impact just a few words can leave if included in properly and carefully structured sentences. Hughes also successfully deploys emotions in his poem to provoke his audience and also draw their attention. As I was reading this poem, it is funny how I occasionally shifted the tonality of my voice, sped up some stanzas trying to create emphasis and how a times I was drawn to fell like he felt.

I find Theme for English B very applicable to myself and several other college students especially those who are trying to ascertain how to relate with colleagues in school and in normal life. When it is appropriate to allude that one’s race can have massive effects on how they relate with others, especially when one hails from one of the minority groups, it is not the only factor that impacts relations. Becares and Priest (1-3) confirmed that indeed ethnicity can bear influences on non-academic fields, for example, relations, as well as academic sectors. However, other factors such as one’s place of birth and where and how one was brought up can also hamper interactions and personal identity. Take for example someone born and raised in a small, secluded, suburban town who only gets to meet a diverse group of people in college. Such like a student is likely to find interactions and acceptance among the other students fairly difficult even though some times, this is always just in their mindsets. Such a student, might think that he or she probably possesses an awkward accent, has terrible sense of style or is not cultured. Receding back to their own comfort zones is always the easiest and best option for such students. The same can be said about people trying to relate with those they are not accustomed to in normal life. Humans are always quick to note the dissimilarities instead of first appreciating the shared characteristics. Both the college student and the person experiencing hard times relating in normal life will quickly price themselves out of the contention for healthy relationships due to struggle with identity or truth.

Advancing the arguments above, Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B is also pertinent to various professional set ups. Take for example a staff situation at a production company. One is likely to find themselves surrounded by different types of people. Some of the staff members may seem like they have already made it in life, others pursuing multiple investment opportunities, and some may seem like they have made no progress at all. Additionally, some of the colleagues may be having interests that do not appeal to you and some of their rights may rightfully fascinate you. In short, no one else at the workstation is exactly like another. How bad this affects one in person depends on who they are, and how they let the differences get into their heads. However, truth is, most people are always affected by the dissimilarities between themselves and colleagues, especially when they seem to be making comparatively little progress. This effect can be manifested in terms of job performance, attitude and enthusiasm (Odhong and Omolo 158-9). However, this should always be case. Nobody else is like us, and will never be like us. As humans therefore, we are best served by embracing the desirable differences between us and those around us, and doing whatever we have to do to be where our hearts desire. We should never at one point let our dissimilarities be the cause of our downfall.

Conclusion

Langston Hughes’ Theme for English B has a wide range of applicability. This is mainly from the fact that the voice of the poem is inspirational. In the poem, the speaker transitions from an African American student who struggles with his identity and the truth into the same African American student, but this time round, one who appreciates the fact that he is only unique in terms of ancestry and nothing more. He is at peace with his situation and only focuses on the positive aspect of his life. As discussed before, Theme for English B is applicable to several peer situations and even interactions outside the classroom. Life is never as critical as most of us may love to view it. All it entails is the will to learn from each other. One should never without reason, isolate themselves from their peers because of the differences between them. Instead, invest on the similarities between you and your colleagues to create environments where learning and knowledge sharing takes place.

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Reflection on a Theme Raised by Langston Hughes Theme for English B.. (2019, Dec 04). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from
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