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'Theme for English B' by Langston Hughes: Summary and Analysis

'Theme for English B' by Langston Hughes: Summary and Analysis

This article brings to you a 'Theme for English B' analysis along with its summary. It is a poem by Langston Hughes, and speaks about racial discrimination during early 20th century America.
Penlighten Staff
Did You Know?
Around the start of 20th century, Harlem, New York, was the epicenter of cultural renaissance, known as the 'Harlem Renaissance'. This is also, on occasions, known as the 'New Negro Movement'.

Racial discrimination has been prevalent for long in many parts of the world. This has actively been opposed in the past as well as the present. Racial discrimination was present in America well into the 20th century. Arts provided a mirror to reflect the racial profiling of society. It was also used to break through the stereotypes, be it in music, novels, theater, visual arts, or literature. The Presence of the Harlem Renaissance had spread beyond Harlem, and it was noted on national and international levels as well.

'Theme for English B' is a poem by Langston Hughes that is a part of the literature of the Harlem Renaissance. It provides the view of a racist world as seen by a young man living in Harlem. Here is a 'Theme for English B' analysis and summary.

Summary

The narrator is a 22 year old, colored, young man, who was born in Winston-Salem. He had been to school at the place where he was born, and followed that by going to a school in Durham, before he started going to his current college in Harlem.

The narrator is a resident of Harlem. He stays at Harlem branch of YMCA. This was located at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. The 'Harlem Y' was declared to be a 'National Historic Landmark' in 1976, and 'New York City Landmark in 1998. He is assigned the task by his instructor to write a page. Once in his room, and when he starts his assignment, he finds it difficult to write. The instructor has asked him to write what he finds true.

The narrator says it is difficult to know what is the truth and what isn't at the young age of twenty two. He hazards a guess that whatever he can see, hear, and feel, must be the truth. The narrator has his share of experiences in all the three aspects from Harlem and New York.

The narrator tries to identify himself as someone who loves to sleep, eat, drink, be in love, work, read, learn, and understands life. He wishes to get a pipe as a gift for Christmas. He has an interest in Bessie, Bop, and Bach. He says that being colored doesn't make him not like the things that people of other races like.

The writer wonders, "So will my page be colored that I write?". He says that his writing will have a few different shades as well. It will have some of his white instructor in his writing, that has now become a part of his writing. This, at times, is not what both of them want, but it remains a fact. He says 'That's American'.

The poem concludes with the writer saying "This is my page for English B", which is a result of the narrator learning something from the instructor, as has the instructor learned a few things from him, despite the instructor being 'older', 'white', and 'somewhat more free'.

Analysis

The poem is a view of the racist society prevalent at the beginning of 20th century in America, as seen by a young man, the narrator. The writer, as a part of his assigned task, tries to keep his writing honest. He, to begin with, finds it difficult to understand what the truth is. He wonders whether the truth is what he feels or likes? He does not resent what people of other races like just because he is colored. He thinks about how impartial he can be when penning down the truth. He admits that there is bound to be some bias in his writing, yet, majorly, his writing is like the American society, which he says is incomplete without all elements that form it. These elements that make up the society, may, at times, not want to be a part of the mixture. But he says, the truth is that they are a part of it and get to learn things from one another.

About the Author

Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. He was one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and a columnist. He was also one of the innovators of jazz poetry. he passed away on May 22, 1967.