I, Too Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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What is the tone of Langston Hughes' "I, Too, Sing America"? Please give the words that help set the tone. I, too, sing America.  I am the darker brother.They send me to eat in the kitchenWhen company comes,But I laugh,And eat well,And grow strong.Tomorrow,I'll be at the tableWhen company comes.Nobody will dareSay to me,"Eat in the kitchen,"Then.Besides,They'll see how beautiful I amAnd be ashamed--I, too, am America.

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Eleanora Howe eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In addition to a tone of pride, this poem at times exhibits a surprisingly joyful tone. I say this tone is surprising because the poem wrestles with a very unsavory subject: America's racist history. However, for all that, when Hughes announces his ability to "laugh" (5), to "eat well" (6), and to "grow strong" (7), he also announces his capacity for joy in the face of a racist society. 

Something else that contributes to this poem's subtly joyful tone is its allusion to the poetry of Walt Whitman. Whitman often characterizes himself as "singing" of America, and this process involves celebrating the vast and diverse array of life in America, including the good, the bad, and everything in between. By saying that he's also singing of America, Hughes consciously responds to Whitman and the joyful tone of his poetry. Additionally, Hughes seems to be noting that, as a white man, Whitman might not have actually "sung" all of America after all. In that case, Hughes steps up to sing the verses Whitman might have missed. 

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rexnmickey | Student

The tone in this poem is one of self-pride. He is treated as if he is an embarrassment to the white people, and made to feel inferior to them.   But he is also made to feel inferior within his race as well due to the darker hue of his skin. The poet is trying to show how America “covers up” her racial discrimination “problems.” The tone changes throughout the poem. In the first line, the tone is patriotic. The line, “I, too, sing America,” indicates the national anthem, and symbolizes unity throughout the nation. In the next stanza, the tone is of anger and strength. The man is enraged at how he is treated, but he knows he is strong enough to fight back. This is shown in the line, “But I laugh,/ and eat well,/ And grow strong.”  In essence he lets the world know that no matter how you treat me I have self-pride and I will survive.