Study Guide

The Weary Blues

by Langston Hughes

The Weary Blues Themes

Themes and Meanings (Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The combining of formal and traditional poetic devices with the idiomatic blues lyrics of “common” folk is suggestive of the fusion of sound and sense the poem achieves—high art with low art. It also is a fusion of the oral and written traditions. “The Weary Blues” is intended to be read aloud, as any musical composition is intended to be performed. In order to understand it, one must react to it emotionally as well as understand the contrasting movements that enhance its contrast of images and meaning.

The central theme of “The Weary Blues” concerns the resilience of the archetypal “common” person who has times of despair or despondency. Music serves as a means of relieving pain or anxiety. The poem transcends the limitations of race, as all people have used music and poetry as a means of getting through bad times. The cause of the blues singer’s sense of isolation, loneliness, pain, and trouble is deliberately vague. His inability to identify the exact cause of his trials and tribulations, or the narrator’s unwillingness to speculate upon it, enhances the universality of those feelings. The unspoken but evident complexity of the interrelationship between the player and his piano and the narrator and the musician corresponds to the complexity and interrelatedness of musical and poetic traditions. The poem, in its unconventional thematic and formal structure, advocates an equal acceptance of the two.