illustrated portrait of American poet and author Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

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What are the literary devices used in "The Dinner Guest: Me" by Langston Hughes?

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Langston Hughes also uses imagery to contrast black (or darkness) and white visually and to represent the racial divide.  He speaks of "coming to the white mind" in line 5, and then "darkness USA" (9).  He goes on to refer to "the current democratic night" in line 11, ending the verse with another reference to his dinner companion as being white in line 11.

In the second verse, he refers to the lobster, which is white, in line 15 and then to the "damask cloth" in line 18. Damask tablecloths in fine restaurants are pretty much always white.  It is nighttime for this dinner, "Park Avenue at eight" (20).

Interestingly, the only other color imagery we have in the poem is red, the "fraises du bois" in line 13 and references to wine in the first and second verse.  Fraises du bois are wild strawberries, and assuming that one can have red wine with lobster, I have always pictured the wine as a red one in this poem. 

The other device that I notice in the poem is his sarcastic use of capitalization, "the Negro Problem,"(2), the verb "Probe"(7), and again, the word "Problem" in lines 19 and 22.  Hughes knew perfectly well that the words "probe" and "problem" are not words to be capitalized, so he is calling our attention to these words, emphasizing them, giving them a stronger emphasis as a way of letting us know what he thinks of his dining companion's phony interest in him. This focus on "P" words also gives the poem a kind of rhythm when it is read aloud.  Try reading it aloud for yourself, and you will not be able to help coming down stronger on those words.  "Park Avenue" (20) also contributes to this effect. 

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Langston Hughes is an incredible poet who uses numerous literary devices in his poetry. His poem "The Dinner Guest: Me: employs the use of an anecdote. He makes his point by telling a story in his poem about the dinner party. Langston Hughes also employs the literary device of satire in this poem. He ridicules the actions of these white people who speak to him about the problems with racism in America but "Solutions to the problem,/ Of course, wait." In this way he also uses heavy irony in the poem as he shows the characters so concerned but doing nothing except talking with disgust about the problem. They state that they are "so ashamed of being White" but do nothing to solve the problems.

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