Describe racial alienation in "The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes?

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mdelmuro | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In Langston Hughes's "The Weary Blues," the speaker describes a blues singer who sings a song about how he "Ain’t got nobody in all this world, / Ain’t got nobody but ma self." While the speaker's race is not clear, the description of the "negro" singer explores the alienation of blacks in America.

Throughout the poem, Hughes uses words that suggest a certain loneliness and sadness the singer suffers from because of this alienation. The singer plays "a sad, raggy tune" and sings in a "melancholy tone." The objects around him are even melancholy. The chair he sits on is a "rickety stool" and the piano he plays "moan[s] with melody." 

Also, the setting in this poem is one of loneliness and sadness. A blues club on Harlem's Lennox Avenue sat under "the pale dull pallor of an old gas light." As the night goes on the "stars went out and so did the moon," which leaves the blues singer alone with his thoughts while "the Weary Blues echoed through his head."

Finally, the song itself suggests the alienation of blacks in America. The song describes a common misconception about race in America when blacks win a certain amount of rights, the question asked by many on opposing sides is, "Why aren't you satisfied now?" Harlem had become a place of great art and the place where black culture thrived, but the blues singer is still sad. He explores this idea by singing, "I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ / And put ma troubles on the shelf.” Then he goes on to say he's got the Weary Blues "And can’t be satisfied— / I ain’t happy no mo’ / And I wish that I had died.” 

Finally, the speaker's description of the singer being so tired that he slept like a "man that's dead" demonstrates the exhaustion and hopelessness that comes from being black in America.

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