Langston Hughes is a world-famous and influential American poet, novelist, publicist, and writer of the “Harlem Renaissance.” He is also known for discovering “jazz poetry,” a combination of rhythmics with ballad intonations and blues motifs. Although shared with the literary world as a whole, his works were shaped by the experience of African Americans. Unlike the leading black intellectuals of his time, Hughes did not try to remake his language or themes to suit a white audience. His work reflects the strong influence of the ordinary black experience, as well as the outstanding jazz culture of his era. The essay reveals the power and influence of the poet’s life experience and family, the age and place he lived, and the culture and values that he adhered to his creativity and imagination.
The path of the writer was thorny and not so easy. Inner loneliness and remoteness from parents, difficult financial situation, discrimination, and oppression by “whites” left a significant imprint on his personality. The poet’s creative arsenal is a combination of experience, wisdom, and memories from childhood and youth and his judgments on the political and social situation in the country. Langston Hughes claims that literature and poetry are weapons in the hands of a “revolutionary,” capable of changing the way of thinking and views on life (Ashcroft et al., 2019). In the first poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” the author said: “My soul has grown deep like the rivers” (Duki, 2017, p.164).
Filled with the desire to change the world and create a revolution in people’s minds, he dreams of becoming the greatest poet, bringing “enlightenment” to the masses. He shows a strong sense of tradition and links up the old and the new worlds.
The problem of mass inequality and the struggle against it, justice, and unity are the writer’s main themes. The era in which Langston lived in the age of cardinal changes, such as depression and devastation in the country, political tension, and socio-cultural explosion. Outraged, shocked by the persistence of segregation in the country, Hughes rebels against the sad state of life in the country. In the poem “Let America be America Again,” the author calls people to humanity: “Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed. Let it be that great strong land of love” (Duki, 2017, p.164). The main idea of this “message” is freedom and space that find expression.
The “American dream” means the concept of a wide range of opportunities for everyone. As a poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes wants to see his state peaceful and tolerant, without repression and racial harassment.
Another poem that touches on the writer’s main ideas, “Dream Variations,” expresses the desire for freedom in difficult circumstances. Night and day, light and darkness are authentic and vital images, the opposite of races. The day means something natural, but the oppressed “dark society” is deprived of the opportunity to taste it (Ashcroft et al., 2019). The poem cleverly contrasts the “day” that is and the “day” that should be.
The period of the 20th century is a time of mass changes and lies, distrust, and prejudice. Langston condemns whites who hide behind the church, the Bible, and Christ to justify and exclude blacks. He expresses his distrust of Christianity and its followers in the poem “Goodbye Christ.” The poem consists of contradictions and inconsistencies, which illustrates Christ as an outdated image and a relic of the past. In addition, the author is not anti-Christ; Being in a difficult situation and position, he finds solace in a “conversation” with the deity, tormented by the most opposite feelings and thoughts. The poet trusts God, the only Lord, as a savior and liberator from slavery and injustice; He shows his reverence in the poem “Who but the Lord?”.
Hughes was one of many black writers of the era who turned to communism as a solution to the problem of a segregated America. In the 60s, he participated in the struggle of Blacks for civil rights, however, condemning nationalist extremist tendencies. Staying in the USSR, James Hughes was surprised by the reverse segregation and equality of “whites and blacks,” Asians, and Europeans. In America, on the contrary, the condition has not changed, and the situation of the black proletariat has not improved. He will note this in future poems imbued with Marxism and revolutionary ideas. In the “Good Morning Revolution,” he represents the revolution and makes it his friend. Thus, working in pairs, they jointly pose a danger to “the boss.”
Jazz and blues poetry for Hughes is high literary art. Inspired by his favorite musical artists and “magical” songs, Langston created his poetry of sounds and feelings, called “jazz poetry.” The melodies are filled with echoes of “black motifs and aesthetics,” which so excited the writer’s soul. With “Dream Boogie” and “Harlem,” he shows the influence of jazz. Also, his “The Weary Blues” tells about the brutal fate and life, the suffering and torment of “blacks” in America, coupled with something beautiful and cleansing-light melodies and a lively rhythm.
Hughes’ Poems depict the life of the working class and the lower strata of African American society in his works. The poet expresses his thoughts in an accessible form, intertwining vernaculars and local dialects. In his poems, he creates a unique sense of dignity, pride, and justice for the black people. Thus, the poet does not turn to his inner world but acts in the external and already existing one. Due to restructuring in America after the abolition of slavery, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. Besides, an important role was played by family and society in total and the passion for the writers as Alice Walker and James Baldwin.
Summarizing the above, one can note that a spiritually rich person and his broad view of the world creates excellent writers that can influence people, like Langston Hughes. The poet had a difficult life, full of oppression from the white nation and political repression. Disagreements in the family, an unhappy childhood, instability, and poverty played an important role in the formation of Langston as a poet and revolutionary.
Throughout his life, the writer often encountered stereotypes both in educational and working activities. In his works, one can see the motives of freedom and the condemnation of racial discrimination. Langston also touches on political and revolutionary topics; He states his thoughts in simple, accessible language, supported by musical elements of jazz and blues – the main features of his bright and expressive works. With the poetic talent and “sharp” word, Hughes skillfully and with interest affects people’s hearts, instills faith and hope for the unity and equality of peoples, regardless of skin color, financial situation, or another criterion.
Ashcroft. B, Sen K., Singha S. P., Kunderi M., Pal S., Sural G. B., Acharya I., Sarangi J., Jana U., Sengupta S., Nikam S., & Panwar D. (2019). The making of Langston Hughes: Influences and impressions. Middle flight: Ssm journal of English literature and culture, 8(1), pp. 156-163. Web.
Duki, J. M. (2017). The essential characteristics of Langston Hughes’ poetry and their impact on the Congolese conscience. International Journal of Language and Literature, 5(2), 162-173. Web.