What imagery does Langston Hughes use in "Dream Variations" and "Let America be America Again?"

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In "Dream Variations," Langston Hughes uses dance imagery to convey freedom: "To fling my arms wide (line 1) / ...To whirl and to dance (line 3) / ...Dance! Whirl! Dance!" (line 11).  The whirling dance movements align perfectly with the speaker’s desire to be free.  Images of light and dark also pervade the poem: “Till the white day is done” (line 4) / “…night comes on… / …Dark like me—“ (lines 6-7) with the sun and evening echoing the images of light and dark and with dark representing the speaker’s identity. 

The theme of the poem, however, is that of achieving a dream, in this case freedom.  It is this theme of the American dream that connects the two poems. In “Let America be America Again” the most pervasive images are those of dreams and patriotism.  The poem is a composite of voices of all the people whose dreams are the hardest to reach, and these voices make up the imagery of the poem—“the poor white, fooled and pushed apart” (line 19) / …”the Negro bearing slavery’s scars” (line 20) / … “the red man driven from the land” (line 21).  These lines and many others throughout this lengthy poem make a mosaic of people of all ethnic groups whose dreams may have been shoved aside though they have more dignity than “kings” or “tyrants” (stanza two). 

As the poem progresses, Hughes includes many images of the land—both the land American immigrants hailed from and this land, where they till the soil.  The images of patriotism, honest work, and the land combine to make this poem an anthem, reminiscent of Walt Whitman, of all who struggle to achieve the American dream. 

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