The contemporary world faces a rapid advancement in the digital sphere. Day after day, new opportunities are uncovered for people in all aspects of life, including household chores, entertainment, education, and others. It is only natural that such a shift occurs in arts in general and in literature in particular. The newly introduced audial and visual means of rendering socially relevant issues through the perspective of artistic view provide a broader scope of influence on the audience.
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The comparison of printed literature to the new manifestations of digital presentation of common themes shows that the new ways of visual portrayal allow for utilizing means other than language to deliver an important thought. This paper analyzes the means of an artistic portrayal of reality as compared to the American dream in Hughes’ poem ‘Let America Be Great Again’ and the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ directed by Muccino.
The Analysis of Langston Hughes’ Poem ‘Let America Be Great Again’
As the title of Hughes’ poem ‘Let America Be Great Again’ implies, this piece of literature addresses the question of the American dream and how its inaccessibility marks people’s lives. The genre of the work is a social lyrical poem that manifests the need for America to become a country that provides an opportunity to be happy for everyone. The author hesitates if America ever was great, but he believes that it is possible to change it. Many bright literary devices are used to describe the failure of the social reality contemporary for the author to correspond to the proclaimed values of freedom, equality, and happiness.
Hughes uses repetitions “let it be” followed by the indications of unachieved goals to underline what America should be (Hughes 131). Such metaphors as “Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath” and “equality is in the air” vividly underline the importance of freedom and equal rights to be real and not only articulated as priorities (Hughes 131). The author uses repetitions “I am” over and over again to emphasize that the society of America consists of ordinary people who are farmers, workers, immigrants, and servants (Hughes 131-132). All these people are dreamers who want “America to be the dream” they dreamt (Hughes 131).
In such a manner, the poem is a rich representation of socially relevant issues, which are vividly portrayed by the poet’s bright language. This example of print literature shows how literary devices, rhyme, rhythm, and emotionally colored language can influence a reader, thus retrieving necessary emotions and reactions. The tools which modern non-print manifestations of literature use are different in their spectrum and application and might present a wider scope of influence.
The Analysis of the Movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’
The movie plot unveils the financial challenges a young man Christopher Gardner (played by Will Smith), and his family face in their struggle to live a normal life in an American city. The movie raises the social themes which oppose harsh reality to the dreams of happiness and prosperity. People live in a country where they are given a right to the pursuit of happiness, as is stated in the Declaration of Independence.
In the movie, Christopher wonders why Thomas Jefferson formulated his thought in this particular way using the word ‘pursue’ (Muccino). Ultimately, since it is so difficult to live the American dream, probably the main hero articulates the thought of millions of average Americans by saying, “maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue, and maybe we can actually never have it” (Muccino).
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Unlike print literature, the movie utilizes not only language but visual and audial means that increase the level of influence on the viewer. The decorations of accommodation, daily life, and transportation of the main hero’s family have visually portrays the life reality of an average American. It is obvious that without money to pay rent and taxes, one cannot be happy in America. Being happy here means being rich and have a successful career. This idea is vividly demonstrated in the scene where an expensive car races along the street in which a queue of homeless poor people stand waiting to get a place to stay in a shelter (Muccino).
Hunger, poverty, and homelessness exist alongside luxury and fortune. Christopher sacrificed his family while desperately trying to find happiness for his son and himself. The difficulties which he had to solve until he achieved success and got the position at a company are not explicitly articulated by means of language in the film. On the contrary, Christopher’s silent tears when he was informed about his new position impact the viewers’ emotions more than any words could.
Moreover, the music broadly used by the director in the film allows for audial emphasizing of the emotional background of essential issues. The worries and fears of both the main hero and his wife are shown in the background of lyric and sometimes intensive music that implies disturbance and danger. Positive tunes accompany the leading character when he starts his journey at a new company. Such sound effects help the author of the work to underline the necessary emotional shades and bring important emotions and feelings to the surface.
Visual Enhancement of the Social Commentary Common to American Literature
Despite the portrayal of a common theme of pursuing an American dream as a life goal of an average US citizen in the two analyzed works, the ultimate effects are different. The printed literature work utilizes a wide spectrum of literary devices to influence a reader and render socially relevant issues. However, all the means used by Hughes in his poem are limited to language, thus becoming less accessible for the modern person.
Since such a digital medium as cinematography can display a message not only with the help of language but also by employing visual and audial tools, it enhances the influential power of literature. In Muccino’s movie, the acting itself, the facial expressions, body language, decorations, and music are combined to amplify the effect provided by simply written dialogues. Such observations might serve as proof that modern society tends to employ more diverse means of the arts to broaden the scope of effect of print literature.
Classic print literature is a powerful constituent of the artistic world of any nation. Due to its masterful utilization of a word for the retrieval of necessary emotion or reaction from the reader, it comprises a substantial part of the arts. However, the rapid advancement of technology and the global digitalization of all aspects of life bring change to literature as well. Readers nowadays look for easier and faster ways of consumption of information. Thus, visual, audial, or short textual works gain more popularity and gradually supersede print literature from common use.
Hughes, Langston. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes: The poems, 1921-1940. University of Missouri Press, 2001.
Muccino, Gabriele, Director. The Pursuit of Happyness. Columbia Pictures, 2006.