In many ways, the lives lived by Sandy Rogers and his family are not conducive to laughter at all. The novel is set as World War I is about to break out and in a time when being black meant that you were considered inferior and subservient to white people.
However, it is the close-knit nature of the family and the community in which they live that gives Sandy and the other characters in this fantastic debut semi-autobiographical novel from Langston Hughes reasons to smile. In this community, people genuinely care about one another, taking care of each other when someone is sick and sharing food when needed. In a nutshell, the entire community is like a family.
The character of Sandy Rogers, as well as those of fellow characters such as his grandmother, known to the community as Aunt Hager, is revealed in the dialogue shared between the characters. They are passionate, tenacious, and, especially in Sandy's case, filled with a desire for knowledge and life experience. One of the themes that Hughes touches on is music and the significant role that music played in maintaining morale in these communities. Music, it seems, worked hand in hand with laughter and close bonds of friendship to make a grim life worth living.