Style and Technique
Hughes avoided the more illiterate dialect associated with so many literary black characters, sprinkled with “dis” and “dat” and “ain’t no mo’.” He tried to retain, however, the distinctive dialect of urban blacks, especially the characteristic “jive” talk and slang of Harlem, as evidenced in this exchange between Simple and Boyd:“I seed a poster outside a church last night. Sister Mamie Lightfoot and Her Gospel Show, and they were charging one dollar to come in, also programs cost a quarter, and you had to buy one to pass the door.” “Did you go in?” “I did and it were fine! Four large ladies in sky-blue robes sung ’On My Journey Now,’ sung it and swung it, real gone, with a jazz piano behind them that sounded like a cross between Dorothy Donegan and Count Basie. Them four sisters started slow, then worked it up, and worked it up, and worked it up until they came on like gang busters, led by Sister Lightfoot.”
This example illustrates the role of Boyd, primarily as straight man to keep the attention on Simple’s monologues. Occasionally, he functions as a somewhat pedantic repeater of platitudes, in order to emphasize his companion’s greater vitality, as in this dull rejoinder to Simple’s opinionated view of opera: “Just because you don’t understand a thing, do not make fun of it too harshly, or be too critical of others for liking it. Tastes differ.” The relationship between the two speakers seems to suggest...
(The entire section is 447 words.)