A Critical Comparison Of Emerson’S “The American Scholar” And Hughes’ “Theme For English B” Essay

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Unlike Emerson, Hughes was of mixed race and came from a lower class broken home (Kansas Heritage). Although a University graduate (Kansas Heritage) it is because of Hughes’ race and position as a social activist (Poem Hunter) that the speaker in “Theme for English B” places significance in one’s environment when seeking individual thought and intellect. Such significance isseen when Hughes writes that the speaker in the poem is “colored, born in Winston-Salem” (Line 7). By providing biographical details, Hughes introduces the second stanza in which he describes the environment that will no doubt have shaped the scholar/speaker’s persona and fashion what he writes on his page. It is the very first line of Hughes’ work that shows the learning environment is set; “The instructor said” (Line 1). There is an immediate differentiation between the instructor and scholar, consequently setting the scene of a learning hierarchy. It is not until the speaker’s description of himself as “colored, born in Winston-Salem” (Line 7) that the notion of a lower class environment is evident. The speaker/scholar recognizes that he has been shaped by his environment by stating he is what “I feel, and seeand hear” (Line 18). Hughes notes that although race plays a distinctive role in defining our character, it is not ‘the’ definition of our character when he writes “I guess being colored doesn’t make me notlike / the same things other folks like who are other races” (Lines 25-26). Race is an important motif of the poem, however not the defining theme. Hughes believes race is an important part of an individual but again, not the defining characteristic. This emphasis is drawn to the reader’s attention through Hughes’ use of italics when writing

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