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Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman - Essay Example

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James Langston Hughes is an African-American poet, novelist and playwright who was born in Missouri on February 1, 1902. His parents divorced when he was still a small child and he was left to the care of his relatives…
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Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman
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Download file to see previous pages Hughes is famous for writing about the ordinary lives of black people from the 20s to the 60s. Hughes claimed that his writings were influenced by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman. On the other hand, Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819 in New York. Whitman worked as a printer, teacher, journalist, editor and during the war, he volunteered as a nurse in hospitals. His literary inspirations are Homer, Dante and Shakespeare. The era when Hughes became very popular was during the Harlem Renaissance (1918 to 1930) which was during the time when the Blacks were discriminated against. Being a Black himself, his themes were about social injustices against the Blacks and what it meant to be black, which earned him the title “The Black Poet Laureate”. Hughes also believed in socialism and became a member of the Communist Party. In contrast, Whitman’s epoch was during the Civil War. He witnessed the rise of the United States as a commercial and political power. He witnessed both the peak and the abolition of slavery. This is why the themes of his poems are mainly on the ideas of democracy, equality and brotherhood (SparkNotes Editors, par.6). With regards to writing style, both Whitman and Hughes use rhythm and repetition which creates a captivating quality of incantation. Both of them use anaphora, which is a literary device where several lines in a row begin with the same word or phrase. In Whitman, an example of this is his poem “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” (1865), where the first four lines each begin with “when”, as illustrated below: When I heard the learn’d astronomer; When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me; When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them; When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room, In Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again”, the first three lines begin with “let”. Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Unlike Whitman, Hughes’ poems are more pessimistic about the nature of America; but at the same time he offers a call to change, as can be seen in his poem above. The themes of Whitman’s works revolve around democracy as a way of life, the cycle of growth and death and the beauty of the individual. On the other hand, Hughes’ themes are based on his personal life, his travels, his involvement in radical and protest movements, his interest in Africa and South America as well as the Caribbean. With regards to the use of language, Whitman widened the possibilities of poetic diction by including slang, colloquialisms, and regional dialects, rather than employing the stiff, erudite language so often found in nineteenth-century verse (SparkNotesEditors, par.2). In contrast, Hughes language style incorporates rhythmical language, jazz, blues structures, dialects and colorful verses. Hughes’ poetry is best read aloud because of its cadence. Whitman and Hughes are poets who were largely influenced by the political and social issues during their times. Their works goes beyond literature, crossing the boundaries of political and social content. Both the subject matter and language contribute to its aesthetic value. This is what made their poems more memorable and considered to be among the masterpieces of world literature. Work Cited “Poets.org. Guide to Langston Hughes.” Poets.org. Web. 18 May 2011. http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/323 SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Whitman’s Poetry.” SparkNotes.com. SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 18 May 2011. ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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