African American literature focuses on the description of this population group’s struggles and dreams, and the poem “I, Too, Sing America” written by Langston Hughes, is no exception to the rule. In this piece, the author emphasizes the difference in the perceptions of the place of workers in the house by its owners and the Black people (“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes,” n.d.). In this way, the former’s vision of the latter’s subordinate position contrasts their will to live. Therefore, the main character is deeply affected by the setting as evidenced in his intentions to become successful, his feelings when eating in the kitchen and the shame ascribed to the people treating him unfairly.
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The thoughts of the person from the poem reflect his desire to become better in any aspect. In the beginning, he demonstrates a positive attitude towards the forced loneliness and the exclusion from a happy and carefree life of other people in the house (“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes,” n.d.). He sees it not as deprivation but an opportunity to “eat well and grow strong” (“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes,” n.d.). This theme often appears in other stories of African American authors. Thus, for example, Bud from “The Boy and the Bayonet” also strives to be a useful member of society when joining the Cadet Corps (“The Boy and the Bayonet” by Paul Laurence Dunbar,” n.d.). Hence, they perceive success as the inclusion in the principal activities of people around them.
The mentioned intentions of the main character from the piece imply the presence of specific feelings towards the setting. In the words about being “the darker brother,” one can hear the bitterness of the person’s life and sadness when he is present but different and, therefore, the attitude towards him changes accordingly (“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes,” n.d.). From this perspective, dehumanization of the Black man relates to the neglect of his emotions regarding this aspect. This type of bias takes the central place in the poem and increases disparities between the house’s owners and their servants (Mekawi et al., 2019). In this way, the narrator’s feelings confirm the settings’ impact on his life.
However, there is one circumstance invigorating the African American man from the poem, and it is the feeling of shame which the white people from the house should have. It significantly affects his attitude towards reality by alleviating sufferings. In this case, the man desires to show them “how beautiful I am” and thereby attract their attention to his good qualities (“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes,” n.d.). The shame ascribed to the house’s owners in this situation is also the main topic in other stories about Black people. One of the explicit examples is Bud’s experience with this feeling, whereas it should belong to his classmates (“The Boy and the Bayonet” by Paul Laurence Dunbar,” n.d.). It adds to the importance of the setting for the perceptions of people in literary works.
To summarize, the environment in the house significantly affects the feelings and perceptions of the man from the poem. First, the expression of his intention to become better and stronger stems from his life circumstances. Second, the understanding of the alleged superiority of white people results in the emergence of bitterness and sadness in him. Third, the idea that shame which should belong to the house’s owners treating the African American man unfairly leads to the change in his attitude to the situation for the better. Thus, it can be concluded that the setting of the poem has a tremendous impact on the main character’s intentions, emotions, and beliefs.
“I, Too, Sing America” by Langston Hughes. (n.d.). American Literature. Web.
Mekawi, Y., Bresin, K., & Hunter, C. D. (2019). Dehumanization of African-Americans influences racial shooter biases. Race and Social Problems, 11(4), 299-307. Web.
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