Langston Hughes

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Theme For English B Analysis

Explain the poem "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes. 

Quick Answer

Langston Hughes' poem "Theme for English B" is a meditation by the speaker after his professor assigns the students to write one page and says that whatever the students write, as long as it comes from themselves, will be true. The speaker struggles a bit with this idea. He notes that there is a divide between his professor and himself, because the professor is white and the speaker is black. The speaker goes on to cite some things that he experiences and likes as a way of establishing some sense of self in his assignment.


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Langston Hughes “Theme for English B”  is an unusual poem written as though it is an assignment for a young, black, college scholar.  The assignment from the white instructor is daunting to an inexperienced writer.  It is always hard to face a blank sheet of paper with little instructions to initiate the assignment. 

Assignment: Tonight, write a page and let it come from your heart and mind.  The grade will be based on the writing being honest and individual to you.

Tone

The tone of the poem is forthright and honest.  When the assignment is given, the poet never questions it. It is assigned,  and  he will complete it.  He feels the necessity to write it. The key to the poem is the two forces at work: he is the only black student in the class; and the white instructor’s ability to understand the student.   

One of the oddities in an English class is that the grading is most often subjective.  If a teacher grades an essay or a poem, there are standards to base a grade, but there is always an element of subjectivity that the student must understand will be used in the evaluation of the work. 

Narration

The poem is written with a first person point of view with the poet as the narrator. He acknowledges that he is the only black student in the class and his teacher is white as well.  As the poem progresses, the reader evolves with the student as he asserts who is he is and what it like to be him.  He also tries to understand the point of view of the teacher.

 Form

The poem is basically free verse and in no...

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