Dinner Guest Me Langston Hughes Essay

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Langston Hughes

Throughout many of Langston Hughes' poetry, there seems to be a very strong theme of racism. Poems such as "Ballad of the Landlord", "I, Too", and "Dinner Guest: Me" are some good examples of that theme.
The "Ballad of the Landlord" addresses the issue of prejudice in the sense of race as well as class. The lines "My roof has sprung a leak. / Don't you 'member I told you about it/ Way last week?" (Hughes 2/4) show the reader that the speaker, the tenant, is of a much lower class than his landlord. It also shows that the landlord could care less of what condition his building is in as long as the money is still coming in. "Well, that's Ten Bucks more'n I'll pay you / Till you fix this house up new." (Hughes 11/12)…show more content…

In Langston Hughes' "I, Too", written in 1925, the speaker in the poem is a young black male. Through out this entire poem the speaker expresses great hope about his peoples' future. He seems to think that very soon, during his time, there would have been a drastic change in the way that his people were treated. "Tomorrow, / I'll be at the table" (Hughes 8/9), shows his confidence that his people would be treated as equals in a very short time period. In the last line of the poem "I, too, am America." (Hughes 18) we can almost see the speaker's face beaming with pride. Another one of Langston Hughes' poems, "Dinner Guest: Me", written in 1965, is almost a continuation of "I, Too". The speaker in "Dinner Guest: Me" seems to be the same one, except this time that pride that we saw in his face is gone. Now instead of being confident about "Tomorrow's" change, he sees that it is, and will take much longer than he had originally anticipated. The last two lines of the poem, "Solutions to the Problem, / Of course, wait." (Hughes 22/23), tell us that this man who was once so proud of who he was is now so brainwashed by white propaganda that he refers to himself as a "Problem." We can however see that there were some differences since "I, Too" but there should have been a lot more over the forty years between the poems. Maybe that's the reason that the speaker is much less confident now. He must have

This dinner party seems to be a relatively commonplace occurrence for the African American speaker: "Being wined and dined, / Answering the usual questions / That come to white mind." He answers the usual questions from the white audience who seeks to understand "darkness U.S.A." The speaker himself is like a curiosity, a prophet, asked to speak on behalf of an entire race of people to help explain "how things got this way." The white people in attendance at this dinner seem well-meaning, at least for this one "democratic night," but the speaker understands that they think of him, or at least what do to with his blackness, as a "Problem."

At this dinner, with the well-meaning but nevertheless harm-causing white audience, the speaker, a person of color, becomes the "center of attention." However, he knows that all the talk is, ultimately, for nothing; these individuals seem to want to discuss the "Problem" of race-relations, but they do not seem to feel compelled to discuss any solutions. They, perhaps, feel they do enough to be "'ashamed'" of their whiteness, but they do nothing to actually make life better for persons of color. In the end, then, the poem's purpose seems to be to point out the way conversations about race so often go between whites and persons of color: whites profess guilt about their privilege but do nothing to actually dismantle the racism institutionalized in our government, schools, workplaces, and so on.

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