Downhearted and dismal, the musician plays his heart out on Lenox Avenue. He uses his music as a way to purge his sadness.
Mother in "Mother to Son"
The mother has had a difficult life but counsels her son not to give up, for she is still trudging along and he can succeed as well. She is kind and stern.
Speaker in "I, Too"
The African American speaker once accepted his second-class status, but he is no longer willing to endure subjugation. He is ready to show the world that he, too, is beautiful and just as American as the country's white citizens.
Speaker in "Life is Fine"
The speaker keeps considering different forms of suicide because he is distraught over a lovers' quarrel. He fails to complete the task every time, and as a result, realizes that life is worth living.
Speaker in "As I Grew Older"
The speaker once had a dream, which is now hidden behind a thick wall of shadows. As he gets older, though, he gains the confidence and strength to attempt shattering the wall to reclaim his dream. He moves from listlessness to empowerment over the course of the poem.
Son in "Mulatto"
The biracial son in "Mulatto" is moved to confront his white father about his parentage in an attempt to hold the man accountable. The son exposes the hypocrisy and horror of slavery. By the end of the poem, he achieves self-actualization for himself and all biracial children.
Father in "Mulatto"
The cruel, lustful father does not want to claim the "yellow bastard boy" he sired by raping a female slave. He believes that the bodies of slaves are objects that exist to satiate a white man's sexual desires. He is eventually outwitted by his son.
Speaker in "Theme for English B"
The speaker is a college student who is writing a composition paper. Through this process, he comes to know more about himself and his role in the world. He likes the same things as white people do but knows that his experience will always be different because he is "colored." He identifies the unity that could exist between the races and hopes that they can influence and support each other.
Big Boy in "50-50"
A lascivious opportunist, Big Boy only wants to stay with the female speaker of the poem for her money.
Sargeant in "On the Road"
Sargeant is an unemployed African American man who tries to seek shelter from (white) Reverend Dorset during the Depression. The Reverend denies him access to the parsonage because of his race. In response, Sargeant tries to break into the church next door and believes that he pulled the whole thing down. On the road, he meets Christ, newly descended from the cross. The two converse and then later part ways. By the end of the poem, it is clear that Sargeant either dreamt or made up pulling down the church and meeting Christ, because he is now in jail. Though imprisoned, he appears determined and strong at the end of the tale.
Christ in "On the Road"
The fictional representation of Christ is liberated from the cross when Sargeant pulls the church down. Christ claims to be disappointed with the white parishioners who have kept him imprisoned on the cross, praying to him but not embracing his teachings in their lives. Christ walks with Sargeant for a while and then claims to be heading towards Kansas City.
Reverend Mr. Dorset in "On the Road"
A religious white man who is hypocritical because he does not want to help the downtrodden Sargeant because of his race.
Langston Hughes: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Langston Hughes: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The central narrative voice describes an African American (or Negro, in this 1923 poem), in Harlem, New ... The tone of both the narrator and the singer, with his “melancholy tone” and his playing that comes ...
In the early 1950s, America was still racially segregated. African Americans were saddled with the legacy of slavery, which essentially rendered them second-class citizens in the eyes of the law, particularly in the South. Change was bubbling up,...