Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 192

The Ways of White Folks is a collection of short stories by Langston Hughes. The book was published in 1934, during a time of systemic racism in the southern United States and racial tension in major northern cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston.

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The overall theme of the collection is hinted in the title itself. The term is from one of the characters found in the collection, in which he pondered why white people, mainly his employers, treated him badly despite his kindness towards them. The short stories are almost anthropological in their inquiries as the Hughes analyzes the "ways" of white people, especially those who have negative traits such as racist views and attitudes.

The stories all together are commentary on the issues faced by African Americans in the United States during the early- and mid-20th century. The characters are oppressed in some way by white people. However, the collection of stories doesn't seem to be a hateful critique on a certain segment of White America, but rather an articulation of the civil rights and human rights violations African Americans suffered from in the hands of the majority ethnic population.

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Characters