How would you describe Langston Hughes's writing style in "Dream Variations"?   

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The poem is written in a simple, spare style, using primarily monosyllabic words, active verbs, and minimalistic adjectives. The rhythmic patterns of the lines follow more of a musical movement, occupying regular number of beats, that a strictly accentual syllabic pattern. The repetitive vocabulary and repeated themes almost remind the reader of nursery rhymes or early spirituals rather than the more elaborately literary modes of modernism. The use of repetition follows the pattern of improvisational theme and variations common in jazz music, an association emphasized by the importance of dance in the action of the poem.

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beateach | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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In Langston Hughes' poem “Dream Variations,” his writing style is based on the format of American Blues music. The purposefully simple words and short lines indicate their aim at those who have little to base a literary reference on. The words are childlike, but there is strength in the imagery they create.  African Americans of Hughes' era might have had a difficult time relating to literary works given the inequalities in the education system; therefore Hughes wrote in a form they could relate to: music. The first and second stanzas mirror but do not duplicate each other.

The narrator uses words such as “whirl” and “dance” to provide movement and motion, which implies freedom. In addition, he uses double meanings with the words “white” and “black,” “light” and “dark”; they relate to the time of day and racial differences.

In the first stanza he says, “Till the white day is done.” The narrator is speaking both of the light of day and of the workday that was controlled mainly by the white population. The speaker also dreams of being able to dance the day away before the darkness of night descends. The night is identifiable because “it is black like me.”

Therefore, although the words are simple, the format and meaning was accessible to its intended audience.


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