Essay about Theme for English B
“Do you know what it feels like to have the weight of the city on your back? Every street you cross and every turn you make someone is there telling you, you don’t belong. In the poem “Theme for English B” by: Langston Hughes he states, “But I guess I’m what I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you” (Hughes, 1951, lines 17-18). It appears he was referring to the chaos around him. He didn’t feel like he belonged in the city where he wanted nothing more than to further his education, but had to see the hate others wish upon him on a daily basis, and to hear the negative threats from people that know nothing about who he is or where he came from. “And let that page come out of you” (Hughes, 1951, line 4) is referring to one’s self. If something comes out of you that means it is apart of your identity. The teacher wants to get to know the author by having him write a paper that is profound and personal about who the author is, but will it then be true? Being able to express his obstacles, struggles, and differences between him and his white classmates. Imagery impacts the way the author sees himself based on racism, segregation, and how he ultimately identifies himself.
The speaker identifies himself as a colored man in the beginning of the poem, “I am the only colored student in my class” (Hughes, 1951, line 10). That instantly depicts an image in our heads of the separation that he experiences in his class metaphorically speaking. The imagery we get from these lines are racism. The word “colored” (Hughes, 1951, line 10) gives a vivid image of racism. In 1951, colored was a prominent way to identify African Americans. It was also the phrase used at the water fountains and bathrooms. Imagery impacts the message by subtly describing the racism the author endures on a daily basis. “Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you— Then, it will be true” (Hughes, 1951, line 2-5,). It was obvious there was a sense of confusion or unease within his thoughts as he said,” I wonder if it’s that simple?” (Hughes, 1951, line 6). The author hints about racism as he thoroughly discusses the route he takes from school every day. As he begins to break down the aspects of his day, a picture is being painted of the significant distance he must travel to get to “this college on the hill above Harlem” (Hughes, 1951, line 9). The author continues about what he feels, sees, and hear in Harlem. Figuratively speaking, he is identifying the racism that he feels, whether it’s actual objects being thrown at him, sees, the violence that happens to him, and hears, the racial slurs being directed at him, in the city of Harlem.
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Segregation was the imagery identified as well. Although the author is aware of the segregation around him, he is able to relate himself to his teacher and classmates when he says, “Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life” (Hughes, 1951, lines 21-22). He continues by saying, “I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races” (Hughes, 1951, lines 25-26). In this imagery, the author wants to show that he is not drastically different from his classmates. He is human and enjoys the basics of life like his classmates, but his skin color is the only barrier that holds him back from having the freedom to do and live like those of a different skin complexion. He proposes that society is use to the arbitrary of segregation between the whites and blacks and that he cannot have an identity just as they do.
Being able to identify yourself as one person ,but being labeled as another, definitely gets one to question many things about themselves as well as their surroundings. A huge piece of imagery that is repeated in his context are the colors “white” and “black”. They are used as descriptors when referencing his teacher and classmates and also how he describes the paper he is writing. “So will my page be colored that I write? Being me, it will not be white.” (Hughes, 1951, line 27-18). The imagery behind that context is so powerful. He is asking if his paper would be biased because he is black and not like his other classmates. The image of prejudice comes to mine. Before he has the chance to submit his paper and seek a fair shot, he has to ask what type of paper would it be considered. It is also referring to the white paper he is writing on with black ink. There is no segregation when writing a paper, the paper will be white and the utensil used will be an ink pen, that seems like the point he is hoping to make.
Overall, the poem spoke volume. In spite of the racism and segregation the author endured, he didn’t let that hinder him from going to school and receiving the education that he knew he deserved or let the way people treated him define who he was. Obstacles were put in his path and yet he was still victorious. He made sure to distinguish between his white classmates and himself, but also letting it be known that they are one of the same regardless of his skin color by saying, “that’s American” (Hughes, 1951, line 33). The imagery presented throughout this poem symbolizes the strength and courage of a man. No matter what someone said or did to him on his journey from school, it didn’t stop him in any way. Harlem was heard loud and clear, but the author let it be known, as well, that he wasn’t too phased by the outrage. “As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me-“ (Hughes, 1951, lines 37-38) shows that yes the teacher is older, white, and has never experienced anything as the author, but nonetheless they are the same. No form of racism or segregation could give the author a distorted view of his own identity.”