The musician in Langston Hughes' poem "The Weary Blues" sings, "Ain't got nobody in all this world, / Ain't got nobody but ma self." Are there any clues as to why he feels this way?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The musician in Langston Hughes’ poem “The Weary Blues” seems to feel lonely and isolated.  Several clues suggest why he may feel this way.  Among those clues are the following:

  • In line 3, the singer is identified explicitly as “a Negro.” This identification would automatically have made him feel somewhat lonely and isolated in early twentieth-century American, when racial discrimination was common.  In other words, his isolation is not merely personal, it is also (paradoxically) communal, since most African Americans felt isolated during this period from the rest of American culture.
  • The singer plays “on Lenox Avenue,” in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City (4). Harlem was essentially a black neighborhood – even a black ghetto – at this time and was isolated in many ways from the rest of the city. Once more, then, the singer’s isolation is partly communal, because he is a black person living in a largely segregated city.
  • Various details of the poem, such as the references to the “pale dull pallor of an old gas light” (5), the reference to the “poor piano” (10), and the reference to the “old piano” (18), suggest that the singer is poor rather than wealthy. If he were rich, he would be less likely to feel isolated.
  • Given the various details already mentioned – the fact that the singer is a member of a minority group subject to harsh discrimination; the fact that the singer lives in a segregated neighborhood and probably has little choice but to live in such a neighborhood; and the fact that the singer seems to be poor as well as black and is thus subject to discrimination on both counts – it is little wonder that the singer feels lonely. It seems highly appropriate, then, that he sings,

“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,

Ain’t got nobody but ma self.” (19-20)


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