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I need help with the summaries and analyses of the poems, "I,Too" and "Theme for...

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louiseandleo | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 21, 2013 at 12:02 AM via web

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I need help with the summaries and analyses of the poems, "I,Too" and "Theme for English B"

 

 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 21, 2013 at 4:34 AM (Answer #1)

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Thematically, both Langston Hughes poems, "I, Too" and "Theme for English B" are similar in their messages:  both black and white compose America. But, while the speaker initially understands that the African American will emerge into society as a viable component in "I, Too,"

Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me, 
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

in the other poem, this realization evolves from the thoughts of the student who is at first unsure of what to write for his white teacher, who has assigned a page that will "come out of you":

I wonder if it's that simple?....
I am the only colored student in my class....

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age....
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
The same things other folks like who are other races.

Finally, though, he concludes that they are both America, too, as in the other poem,

You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am part of you.
That's American.

So, while the two poems are thematically similar, the expression of these themes differs considerably. "I, Too," is an affirmation; it recognizes that the African-America will acquire strength and finally be acknowledged, whereas in  "Theme for English B" there is a slowly evolving realization of place in society.

Certainly, however, the tones of the two poems differ. In "Theme for English B," the tone is mildly ironic as the speaker asks, "I wonder if it's that simple" to write a page that "comes out of you." He also expresses irony with his final remark, 

I guess you learn from me--although you're older--and white--
and somewhat more free.


But, in "I, Too," there is no irony as the speaker declares that the whites will be ashamed when they see how beautiful the speaker is. Here, in this poem, the speaker conveys much more confidence, as well, in his statement "I, too, am America."

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