A COMPARISON OF THE POEMS “I, TOO” AND “THEME FOR ENGLISH B”

The poems “Theme for English B” and “I, too” are two poems by Langston Hughes are two poems that were written in towards seeking the plight of African-Americans. They are however written differently to serve different purposes in the society. The two poems advanced the author’s political views against the abuse of the political rights and mistreatment of the African-Americans.

First, both poems use first person voices. However, the “I” is different in each poem and is brought out to fulfill different purposes by the author. In the poem “I, Too,” the speaker is not an individual as the poem suggests. Instead, it refers to all the African-Americans living in America. The usage of the word “I” instead of we shows a lone individual, weak and outnumbered. The speaker says, “They send met to eat in the kitchen,” to strengthen the one against all mentality. As used in this poem, the word “I” is used to depict weakness and isolation of the African people.

“Theme of English b,” on the other hand uses “I” for a completely different purpose. The poem uses “I” to depict singularity and individuality. “I” is used to define a student who, like other students, is sent home with an assignment that is written from the heart. The speaker in this case, though singular is depicted as strong as well. His ability to engage the teacher in his assignment with intelligent dialogue displays his strength and courage. The first person point of view is used by the author to point  out artistically the differences between the teacher and the black student. Different parts of the passage particularly stand out in the dialogue

“You are white—

yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.

That’s American.

Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.

Nor do I often want to be a part of you.

But we are, that’s true!

As I learn from you,

I guess you learn from me” (31-38)

This part both points out the differences between the speaker and the teacher, but also puts the speaker in a commanding position. The speaker’s ability to point out something negative and make critical remarks is a sign of pride and strength.

Although both poems use of the first person voices, each of them uses the voice to a different end. Both poems however stand in the protection of the rights of the black Americans in different ways.

The poem “I, Too,” shows a community of African-Americans who have a hope of getting to the same position with their masters. It also displays the slavery of African-Americans. The setting is that of a master and servant situation. The speaker however hopes that these days will be over and

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”(11-13)

He has an undying hope that the day is coming when he will be fully accepted.

Theme for English B” on the other hand depicts a completely different situation; the focus is not mainly on the slavery but on the differences in their skin color. The speaker highlights the differences between him and the teacher and how it makes them feel about each other sometimes. It also points out the similarities that they have; specifically being American.

Works Cited

Hughes, L. (2014). I, Too by Langston Hughes: The Poetry Foundation. [online] Poetryfoundation.org. Available at: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/177020 [Accessed 9 Jun. 2014].

Hughes, L. (2014). Theme for English B. [online] Eecs.harvard.edu. Available at: http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~keith/poems/English_B.html [Accessed 9 Jun. 2014].

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