Langston Hughes Questions and Answers

Langston Hughes book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What does the poem "Dinner Guest: Me" by Langston Hughes mean?

Expert Answers info

Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,682 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

In this poem, the speaker is describing the uncomfortable mood at the dinner table where an apparently liberal white person is befriending him, or at least making a show of doing so. There is obviously something artificial and condescending about the "host" or hosts who are questioning him about "the Negro Problem."

Hughes's point, I would argue, is that even in situations where white Americans attempt to demonstrate their lack of prejudice, they end up showing how little they understand the feelings of African Americans. A much more extreme case of this occurs in Richard Wright's Native Son, when Mary and Jan, in appearing to befriend Bigger, do it in such a clueless manner that Bigger inwardly seethes, wishing that the three of them, driving in the car, will be blotted out of existence by some outside force.

The title of Hughes's poem is significant. Many whites, even those who are not overtly racist and who have good intentions, appear to treat African Americans as outsiders or "guests"...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 731 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,255 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,150 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial