what literary elements are used in "Who's Passing for Who?" by Langston Hughes?

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lschertz | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Characterization is one element used in "Who's Passing for Who?" It is interesting to look at the way Hughes developed the white characters and the black characters.  The white couple who tricks him was never given a name; they were simply referred to as the white couple.  He feels that these are the antagonists in the story, that they are the 'negative' characters, because they are white and chasing around black people.  Therefore, he gives them no names, to help solidify their negative presence.  Names gives us connections, and we should have no connections to these people. 

Point of view is certainly prominant as well. The story is told from a black point of view, looking down on the whites for being pathetic chasers-of-coloreds.  Typically we think of this time period promoting haughty, high-and-mighty white people looking down their noses at colored people, but this story gives us a role reversal.

There is also situational irony present in this story.  Situational irony is present when the character does not expect something to happen.  Firstly, the colored men did not expect the white couple to say that they were 'passing.'  But once the men believed the couple and relaxed and enjoyed their evening, situational irony presented itself, in that the characters do not expect the couple to admit that they lied about 'passing' in order to pass as whites passing as blacks.

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