Theme for English B

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In his poem “Theme for English B,” a response to an assignment given by his class instructor, Langston Hughes writes about the differences between himself and his instructor’s race. He talks about being the only “colored” person in his class and expresses the feeling of being similar to other races, primarily “white”, and yet different throughout the poem. Although he details the similarities between the two races, Hughes manages to write a poem that is represents his “colored” background, using his community, Harlem, as a source of inspiration. The setting brings forth a young college student experiencing the world through a colored man’s eyes, a time during desegregation. Further into the poem, the reader is able to understand more about Hughes and his thoughts on racial difference. He is able to provide his views of racism, social status, and political equality in America (Scharnhorst). Hughes depicts himself as young, colored and educated male and tries to give the reader an understanding of his life experience. Hughes’ paper, in the form of a poem, details what he feels. His feelings come from his school and community, Harlem, and its impact on him. Harlem does not only have an effect on Hughes but on his “white” professor and classmates as well. They are going to school in the community every single day and share the same emotions that Hughes does about Harlem. Many black people during this time were inspired by Harlem’s empowerment of their community. Having a black heritage was seen as positive and black poets, musicians and authors thrived in Harlem. The speaker has likely been encouraged by living in Harlem, and therefore sees his black identity in direct contrast to “you”, the white identity of his instructor. This is a parallel link between the races Hughes does not address. He fails to show how similar an affect a poor neighborhood will have on any
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