What is the tone of "I, Too, Sing America" by Langston Hughes?  

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mrkirschner eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The tone of the poem is pride and defiance.  It speaks of a racial divide in America that white people are perfectly content to ignore.  Sending the speaker to the kitchen to eat can be symbolic of segregation, but also of America's desire to ignore the race problem.  Kind of like out of sight and out of mind.  

Despite the poor treatment of black people, Hughes states that they will overcome and "grow strong."  He envisions a future where his people will rise up and demand full equality.  By suggesting he is a "brother," demonstrates an equal relationship.  The belief that black people will work to secure their rights against all odds is best exhibited in the following passage: 

But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

The inclusion of "I laugh," is an example of defiance as a theme.  Despite whatever unfair treatment he is subjected to, he will not let it break his spirit. Hughes also says that America will be ashamed of its past treatment of black people which is also somewhat defiant.  

Nobody will dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"

They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--


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petty-reagan | Student

The tone of “I, Too” by Langston Hughes can be described as resistant, hopeful, and proud. In this short poem, Hughes expresses these attitudes toward the poem’s subject, the presence of racial discrimination in the United States. The poem begins with the narrator, who is described as “the darker brother” (2), being relegated to eat in the kitchen, and then moves to a vision of the future when the narrator will be invited to eat at the table. Hughes starts by alluding to the landmark American poem “I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman when he writes, “I, too, sing America” (1). Here, Hughes is already establishing a resistant tone by suggesting that he should not be denied recognition due to his race. The poem closes with the statement, “I, too, am America” (18), which asserts the narrator’s place in American society. These opening and closing lines thread the tone of resistance throughout the poem. Despite the current racial divisions, Hughes’s poem takes on a hopeful tone about the future. This is best expressed in the lines reading,


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.” (8-10)

The narrator directly expresses a sense of hope that the future holds the promise of equality. A final overarching tone of pride is essential to the poem. Even though the narrator has been subjected to racial discrimination, a sense of pride of self is clearly expressed. The tone of pride shows up most clearly in the line “They’ll see how beautiful I am” (16), where the narrator declares his beauty in the face of discrimination. Although this poem is made up of only 18 lines, Hughes expresses resistant, hopeful, and proud tones in his poem dealing with the American racial landscape.

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