Tuesday, October 18, 2011


     I really like Hughes' "Theme for English B."  His poetry is different from the previous ones we have read simply because it consists of direct and clear language.  Hughes' main argument in this poem is that everyone is influenced by the society they live in and the people they come in contact with.  He discusses how Harlem and New York as a whole influence him as a person.  Hughes then lists off various aspects of himself that prove he is a person and being true to himself like his instructor asked.  One thing I noticed about the diction in this poem was his use of the phrase "I guess."  I guess is a very unsure, reluctant response that Hughes uses in order to make subtle points about his race and how he is not treated like everyone else.  One example of this is when he writes, "I guess being colored doesn't make me NOT like the same things other folks like who are other races."  I think here Hughes is trying to make the point that everyone always assumes that black people are completely different than white people when there are in fact many similarities.  He also uses this phrase towards the end of the poem when talking about how people learn from each other.  I think here Hughes is being sarcastic and saying that it would make sense if a white man learned from a black man but that it really doesn't happen because white men are "older---and white--- and somewhat more free."  Hughes also discusses the idea of unity and what it means to be American in this poem.  Hughes' argument is that even though we sometimes don't want to be connected with another person for whatever reason, we inevitably are because we're "American" and come in contact with each other every day.
     In "Harlem," Hughes speculates about what happens to dreams that are put off for whatever reason.  I  think the title of this poem is very significant.  On Monday in class, we discussed what the Harlem Renaissance era was like.  It was a time of art and music and writing that exploded from the recently freed African American population.  Is Hughes suggesting that Harlem is a dream deferred and that it is an explosion of long bottled up feelings and emotions that can now somewhat be let out through art, music, books, etc.?  Perhaps the put off dreams of previously enslaved African Americans was like a "heavy load" that they could not relieve themselves of because of the laws that kept them in slavery.
     I really enjoyed Hughes' writing.  He is straightforward and direct which makes reading his writing easier to understand but he still at the same time leaves room for plenty of interpretation.


  1. I really agreed with your comments, on this work of writing. I always find it interesting, to read about how different ethnic groups like African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans think and feel about how they are viewed by society.

  2. After class Wednesday I just wanted to make a couple of points. In "Theme for English B" it is important to highlight the imagery that Hughes uses "above Harlem...down into Harlem," etc. Hughes here is trying to show his readers the inequality that exists and how he is a part of two very different worlds.
    In "Harlem," we made the connection to Cullen's "Heritage" because of the theme of explosion and how when people are not true to themselves or their dreams, they feel as though they are literally going to explode. It is also important to highlight the negative imagery that is used throughout this poem. Hughes here is trying to emphasize that when dreams are deferred, negative consequences for the person are inevitable.

  3. I agree that this was very interesting to read. The negative imagery is very strong in this poem. I dident caught what he was negatively describing at first but now it's Pretty obvious.