What is the genre of "Ballad of the Landlord" by Langston Hughes?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"Ballad of the Landlord" by Langston Hughes is a poem. We normally distinguish poetry from prose by the way it possesses a distinctive pattern or rhythm and rhyme. If you look at the poem on a page, you see that it is broken up into four-line stanzas (called "quatrains") with spaces between them. In each stanza, the second and fourth lines end with words that rhyme with each other such as "due/new" or "heat/street." The first line forms a "refrain" or repeated line in a fixed position within a stanza.

As the title suggests, the poem is of a type known as a ballad, a narrative song or poem type found in folk culture that tells a story. 

The final lines of the poem, in which we shift from the tenant speaking to a third person narrator, show the emotional intensity of the situation by breaking out of the conventional poetic form and incorporating the language of newspaper reports. What this does is give the reader a sense of how the poor and oppressed are not free to tell their stories in traditional form; discrimination and oppression deprive them of their voices.

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