The Truth of a Theme for English B
How it works
“During the Jim Crow era there weren’t many African Americans who were able to attend elite schools as easily as their white peers were allowed. Set in New York, the poem begins with the narrator’s instructor telling the students to write a page “and let that page come out of you -then it will be true.” (Hughes, 844) The narrator learns his identity as a black student in this era of society. In a Theme for English B Langston Hughes depicts how blacks and whites share similarities despite the difference in their skin tones. Posing the question of will my truth still be considered truth even though its coming from my perspective as a black student?
In the beginning the narrator begins trying to figure out his identity. As many discussion questions arise from the narrator’s thoughts throughout the poem, it focuses on the identity of a twenty-two-year-old black man. A young black man in a world that also hasn’t yet formed an identity. “I wonder if it’s that simple, I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem. I went to school there, then Durham, then here to this college on the hill above Harlem.” (Hughes, 844) The setting affects his identity because North Carolina is a slave state, he clearly dealt with a lot of racism there and those experiences allow him to question if the assignment “is that simple”. Now living up North though New York wasn’t a slave state for as long as North Carolina, the narrator gets to acknowledge the differences and similarities he’s experienced as a black man in both states. “It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me at twenty-two my age. But I guess I’m what I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you. Hear you, hear me -we two -you, me, talk on this page (I hear New York, too.) Me -who?” (Hughes, 844) Through setting, age and race he’s able to identify differences and similarities that help form one’s identity. “Well I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn and understand life.” (Hughes, 844) The narrator learning what he likes helps bring attention to race and America’s visions through those similarities shared.
How it works
Gradually the narrator begins to wrap his thoughts around his race. A young black man from Winston-Salem, now living in Harlem a city that’s centered around black culture in New York. He realizes he shares some similarities in likings as to that of other races. “I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records – Bessie, bop or Back. I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races”. (Hughes, 844) At this moment the narrator comes to the realization of what it means to be American. The narrator is born and raised in the south but growing as an adult in the North. The difference in locations allows the narrator to realize how American it is to get involved in identity, especially of someone you don’t get along with.
In this ending the narrator is acknowledging how true the differences in the two men express different truths. The young black man is restricted in certain things he can do in life even though his race are no longer slaves. While his white instructor and his race are free to do what they please hence the statement of “somewhat more free”. The narrator then precedes to bring to his instructors’ attention that this page of truth will ultimately be looked at as black or white being that he is the only black student in his class to give that perspective. Also, at this moment as he’s giving the perspective to his instructor, he too also realizes that they are ultimately apart of one another whether they like it or not. At this point he’s challenging the world. Can we learn from one another and grow together in this society looking past race or will my truth be considered a colored page and we never grow to coexist in this world without hate?
Hughes uses the narrators page of truth to exemplify the state of America and its true identity. Hughes does a great job in challenging his readers by posing multiple questions leaving a message of will my truth be considered just that or will it be a colored page? I believe that the questions and realizations presented by the narrator are things still being discussed to this day in 2019. There are many people of other races who ignorantly believe certain things (mostly negative) about the black community. They don’t realize that we too like country, rock, Latin and pop music. We too wish for zero violence around the world, especially those against us whether it be from other races or someone of our own race. We too wish for equality, to not be judged by our skin, to walk this earth without being shot or hanged (in 2019) because we have black skin. If we can all acknowledge our wrongs despite our skin tone and pay fair consequences for those actions, while also correcting those wrongs maybe just maybe we could all coexist in this world peacefully as friends, family, brothers and sisters. So, the question Hughes presented: Will my truth still be considered true even though I’m black or will my page be colored? According to society in 2019 no it will no just be true, it will always be about color.
- Elliot, Michael A. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 9th ed., vol. D:1914-1945 2, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2017. (Langston Hughes Theme for English B) p.844″