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Theme For English B

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Theme for English B

“Theme for English B” is a poem by Langston Hughes in which a black student in a predominantly white college takes a seemingly simple assignment as an opportunity to inspect the complicated issue of race relations in America. The assignment instructs:
Go home and write
A page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true. (2-5)
In his response to the assignment Hughes points out that we are often reluctant to admit that our similarities are more common and occur more often than our differences. Even though he is black and perhaps feels out of place in a white school, he obviously is very talented or he wouldn’t be in such a prestigious establishment. The poem takes place at his desk in his home and follows his train of thought to the end, where he decides that his brainstorming is as honest an opinion as he was ever going to get. Whereupon he decides to turn in his brainstorm as his response to the assignment. Langston Hughes provides plenty of information about himself in the first half of the poem, for example, that he was “born in Winston Salem” (7) and his school history first Durham, then Columbia University. He tells us that he was the only “colored student in my class”, Then he takes us on his journey home where from that prestigious establishment of Columbia he returns to Harlem through a park, crosses St. Nicholas Ave. where he arrives at the Harlem Branch Y takes the elevator and sits in his room.

In the second half of the poem he inspects the similarities between himself as a
black man and the instructor as a white man. The interesting aspect of this poem is how
Hughes perceives and feels about this color difference and reflects on the difficulties in
analyzing those differences, “It is not easy to know what is true for you or me” (16).
First what brings these outwardly different people together? What do they have in common? Langston points out that ...

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