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What is the common theme of Langston Hughes's, One Friday Morning and Let America be...

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florianlk | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 22, 2010 at 2:50 AM via web

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What is the common theme of Langston Hughes's, One Friday Morning and Let America be America Again?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 27, 2015 at 3:11 PM (Answer #2)

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Langston Hughes wrote novels, short stories and poems and often presented his readers with a moral tale based, in large, on his own experiences. He knew that jazz contributed to a proud black heritage and drew on that in reaching his audience and also in expressing his desire for freedom for all races and for all persons regardless of their status in life. For Hughes, there was no such reality. 

In Let America Be America Again, a poem, Hughes calls for America to "be the dream the dreamers dreamed,"  but reminds readers that, in fact, America is still aspiring to that dream which as yet, remains unfulfilled. He laments that "America never was America to me," signifying that it still has a lot to live up to. Hughes states his case for all Americans who have been "driven from the land" and who suffer as the "mighty crush the weak." It is significant that these are the very people "who dreamt our basic dream," and to whom the land really belongs:

"The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's,/  ME-- / Who made America..."

He speaks of the future when "America will be." 

In One Friday Morning, a short story, Hughes tells the story of schoolgirl, Nancy Lee who wins an art scholarship. Nancy Lee's scholarship dream is short-lived as it is withdrawn when the Committee learns that Nancy Lee is "colored." Nancy Lee has to accept the harsh reality that, as her teacher puts it, "We still have in this world of ours democracy to make."  

Both of these works then trace the lives of African Americans who suffer at the hands of a supposed "free" America. The recurring theme is one of disappointment that the dream is not yet a reality but there is also hope for the future of America. Both works reveal that racism and any injustice is debilitating but must be overcome and it is all people, and especially the very people who suffer, who will contribute to making it great. 

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abelmahdere | Student, College Senior | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2015 at 1:33 AM (Reply #1)

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The insights you offered made me enjoy reading your answer. I fully agree with you, but I feel obliged to add to your interpretation of Langstons works. The difference in attitude between both subjects in the two works is a bit underestimated.

Your description of Nancy Lee is very appropriate and I feel it correctly displays what Langston tried to convey. I feel, however, that the naive attitude displayed by young Nancy was far less present with the African-Americans mentioned in "Let America Be America Again." Nancy's naivety caused her to be more susceptible for disappointment as opposed to the people in the other poem.  

So while I can associate myself with your remarks concerning Nancy Lee in "One Friday Morning." I must disagree on your choice of theme for "Let America Be America Again." Admonishment or rebuke would have been more fitting theme choices. I feel the African-Americans are not victimized in the poem. They are described as tough and proud people hardened by their experiences whilst also learning from them.

I would hereby like to thank you for your thoughts and I hope you enjoy mine as well.

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abelmahdere | Student, College Senior | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2015 at 3:03 AM (Answer #3)

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The common theme both works share is hardship. Both are about enduring abuse and staying strong. The constant struggle that is still visible even to this day.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 22, 2010 at 3:36 AM (Answer #1)

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The common theme of these two works by Langston Hughes is racism.  Both works (one a short story and one a poem) deal with racism and the fact that (especially in Hughes's time) America had fallen short of its ideals.

In the short story, the protagonist has won an art contest.  But then she is told that she had not won it after all because she is black.

In the poem, the speaker is hoping that America will one day live up to its promise of being a nation for everyone.  He is saying that America has not yet been America, but one day it will be.

 

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abelmahdere | Student, College Senior | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 12, 2015 at 2:59 AM (Reply #1)

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I am sorry but I have to disagree with you. Racism is far too general to answer florianlk's question. In my reply to durbanville I go into more detail. I advice you to read that as well and at least reconsider your theme choice.

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