Simple Questioning?

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"I wonder if it's that simple?" (Hughes 6)

Langston Hughes' use of questions throughout his poem reflects the speaker's sense of wonder about life and the subtle demand for change. The speaker does not come right out and accuse people of anything, but simply states facts and leaves his/her opinions in the form of questions or uses words like "guess" that shows uncertainty or asks the reader to sympathize with the speaker about what is taking place.

"Me-who?" (20) the speaker asks in a way that illustrates that he/she is not the only one involved in what is taking place in the city or the overall tone of the poem which is about the color of the speaker's skin. Further along, the speaker questions, "So will my page be colored that I write?" (27). This line exemplifies the irony of the poem since previous lines show that the speaker believes he/she is the same as everyone else, but then questions whether or not other people will view the speaker in the same light.

The overall feeling that the poem leaves the reader is that everyone is connected despite their differences. Therefore, Hughes concludes his poem by saying "I guess you learn from me-" (38) to show that more has to happen in order to have equality, which is the ultimate point of the poem.

And after looking at Chapter eleven's essay, I can see that Roberts kind of took the questions in the poem to mean confidence. However, I think that it may illustrate confidence, but the tone, to me, showed that the speaker was a little less confident about his ideas and therefore put them into questions so as not to offend, but to have the reader think more deeply about the subject of the poem.

6 Comments

Brooke Kuehn said:

I agree with what you said about Hughes feeling less confident. I think he was feeling a rush of emotions when he wrote this. THere is an underlying sense of anger towards discrimination. His comment about the paper being colored almost seemed to be a sarcastic remark in the face of racism. His instructor told him to write a page and "let that page come out of you" (4). THe fact that Hughes wrote about discrimination in this paper seems to show just how significant it is in his life.

Melissa Schwenk said:

Interesting thought, Brooke. In a way Hughes anger is probably justified, but it's better that he's taking his anger out in a poem and not some other more violent way. He probably has a good reason for feeling this way, which is why this is the first thing that came to mind when he started pouring himself out onto a page. Regardless, it makes sense that he would be slightly intimidated to show his true feelings about discrimination in a poem and therefore uses questions to convey his message.

Brooke Kuehn said:

I agree, he definitly has the right to be a bit angry. IF this actually was an assignment he had to turn in to a teacher, I wonder how trusting of the teacher he needed to be in order to hand in something so personal. Maybe his trusting the teacher wouldn't matter to him at all. I dont know, its just a thought.

Melissa Schwenk said:

If he did have to turn it in, then it would at least be a step in the right direction to end discrimination or highlight that the instructor may be coming off a little harsher than he may have realized. It would be interesting to see if he had turned it in or what the reaction was from the instructor.

Brooke Kuehn said:

It seems to me as though the instructor is not harsh. I think Hughes was just referring to all society. He very well could have been harsh though given the time period.

I agree with both of you to an extent, but I don't think his tone really seems that angry. Passionate, definitely. But angry? Anger is a powerful emotion. To me, it seems like he is unhappy with the way things are, but like Melissa pointed out in her original entry, he puts his ideas "into questions so as not to offend, but to have the reader think more deeply about the subject of the poem." However, I do disagree that this shows a lack of confidence. It just seems like he's being polite and respectful by dampening his own opinion. He doesn't want to seem too demanding, because that would just make the professor feel like he's being accused of something, making him retreat instead of possibly confronting the problem.

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