Analysis of Short Stories by James Mercer Langston Hughes

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James Mercer Langston Hughes, born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, was a well known American poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright. He is also known for his association with jazz and the influence it had on his writing. In the 1920s he was an important leader in the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes wanted to tell the stories of black people in ways that they would understand, and included the culture, the suffering and oppression, the love of music and comedy. In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote 11 plays, and many novels and short story collections.

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One of his more popular short stories, “Thank you, Ma’am” features the characters; Roger, a young black boy, and Mrs. Luella a black woman. One night, Roger tries to steal Mrs. Luella’s purse. He breaks the strap, loses balance, and falls down. Mrs. Luella kicks him in the backside. Mrs. Luella learns that he has no one at home taking care of him, not even to wash his face. She then drags him to her home. “Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?” “No’m,” said the boy. “Then it will get washed this evening,” said the large woman starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.”

Throughout the night, Mrs. Luella continues to leave the door open, giving Roger the option to run home, but he never does. Well known for writing about racial issues, Langston focuses on the lesson, which pushes past race. Mrs. Luella is firm, honest, and understanding of Roger’s circumstances. She is also trusting in Roger’s ability to make the right choices.

The story “Seven People Dancing”, was analyzed in the New Yorker. Deborah Treisman claims that as far as she knows “Hughes never tried to publish “Seven People Dancing,” although he might have done so eventually, after revisions.” During his time of living it has been said that Langston Hughes has been closeted, and never formally came out admitting to his sexuality. This story , explores themes of sexuality and expression.

“One Christmas Eve” took place in the 1930s. Arcie, the black maid, and main character, is trying get by with the $7 she gets paid. Arcie needs to pay the lady who takes care of her son and buy her son Christmas gifts the same night. The family Arcie works for, is late coming home from shopping, which keeps Arcie away from her son on Christmas Eve, also, The Missus doesn’t have Arcie’s money. Joe enjoyed the lights and the trees. Arcie and Joe seen the town was decked out for the holidays. Joe wandered into one of the white movie theaters, he was turned away by a white man dressed as Santa Claus. “Huh! That wasn’t no Santa Claus,” Arcie explained. “If it was, he wouldn’t a-treated you like that. That’s a theatre for white folks—I told you once—and he’s just a old white man.”

Hughes makes a point, to highlight the parts of the story related to race by providing imagery using positive words, but the descriptions contrast with the way Arcie feels. She’s angry, frustrated, and stressed. She just wants get home to her son, she wants to buy him a gift. Joe wandered innocently into the theater, and was scared away by a white man dressed as santa. Yet, in the 1930s, especially during holidays, black people, young and old, always had these struggles.

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Analysis Of Short Stories by James Mercer Langston Hughes. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved from