Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 269
The Big Sea by Langston Hughes is an autobiography written about growing up in the early 1900s. Naturally, Langston Hughes is the main character. He was partly raised by his grandmother until he was twelve, and lived with his mother off and on, though she traveled a lot looking for better jobs. His parents separated shortly after he was born, then got back together and moved to Mexico City. There was an earthquake not long after they arrived, and Hughes and his mother and grandmother went back to Kansas. His grandmother took Hughes to Lawrence and raised him. When Hughes was 12, his grandmother died and Hughes went to live with his grandmother’s friends Auntie and Uncle Reed. Auntie Reed takes him to be saved at church, and he talks about the minister trying to get him to feel Jesus. His father lives in Mexico, and when Hughes was a bit older, he asked Hughes to come live with him, which he does. As Hughes gets to know his father, he realizes he doesn’t really like him.
Ramon and George are seamen with Hughes, and they travel to Africa together. He talks about his classmates growing up, some who were nice and some who were mean. Vachel Lindsay, the poet, helped his career along, and he talks about his relationship with Zora Neale Hurston. He also mentions an elderly white woman who helped him financially because she wanted to promote black writers, but once he discovered she wanted him to write in the way she saw black people, he didn’t allow her to continue to support him.