Personal and Political History
1. How do Langston Hughes and Richard Wright address the idea of race in America? How would you describe the overall tone of their work? Is one more successful than the other? Which form, poetry or prose, do you find more effective?
It is important to emphasize that one of the features, which unites two of these writers is that they both were Afro-Americans, therefore, both of them used their “black experience” to depict the problems of racism in the society. Regarding the idea of race depicted by two of them, one should pay attention to Langston Hughes’ The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain (1926), where Hughes raised a problem of Negro writer, who is observed from the point of view of the white people. His poetry also addresses the prejudices and discrimination, but these issues are depicted through the feelings of the black Americans. To my mind, it makes the poetry of Hughes more effective than the prose because depicting the sufferings as they are seen with the eyes of the “victims” let the reader feel the atmosphere of black American’s life more deeply. Richard Wright’s Blueprint for Negro Writing (1938) also depicts the status of the Afro-Americans through the characters connected with literature and as well as his Black Boy shows the reader that mostly the experience of the writer has pushed him to raise the problem in his works. As Bobock has stated in his work (2008), regardless the similarity in these two authors’ thinking, it is important to mention that Wright’s writing style is more epic and artistic rather than Hughes’ one, which is “dense and often ironic”.
2. “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is a dramatic monologue. What are the physical/emotional qualities of the narrator? What is the major conflict presented in the poem?
Eliot’s early poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, depicts the narrator’s sufferings from “the agony of inadequacy”. Nevertheless, only the consciousness of the narrator is considered inadequate, his thoughts, hot his behavior in the society. He addresses to his beloved and seems to love her, but wants to “force the moment to its crisis” for some reasons (Eliot, 2010). According to the manner the narrator speaks the reader can make conclusions that the main hero is a typical modern man, who is neurotic, but eloquent and educated person. It is very likely that the narrator is a middle-aged man, a “bald spot in the middle of his hair” tells about it (Eliot, 2010). Nevertheless, he feels lonely and has no one to talk to, to share his feelings. Consequently, lack of the emotional intimacies with his woman becomes a reason of his decision to break up with her. In reality, he is emotionally and intellectually distanced from the entire world. The conflict between his isolation and the society affiliation becomes central in the poem and brings the narrator to despair. He also suffers because he understands the insignificance of all his deeds for the universe and does not consider his existence meaningful.
3. In Wright’s story, Dave wants desperately to become a man. Do you think this can be applied to young people today? Of all ethnic backgrounds?
From the first view, Wright’s The Man Who Was Almost a Man is a story about an average boy, who simply wanted to have a gun. That is a very common case among the young men, no matter what skin color or ethnics they are. Nevertheless, the theme of struggle of the individual and the theme of racism can not be ignored, when applying the story to the modern young people. Wright describes Dave’s development from a boy into a man. The gun, which can “blur white and black faces” appears to be the mean, which can call respect, it is obvious that there should be other means to achieve just, equality and fairness (Wright, 1992). However, the ethnic conflicts and disrespect exist till nowadays and regardless the political correctness and various manifestations many young people suffer from injustice and violence. Such boys, who see the humiliation, are very likely to use weapons, not other peaceful ways as those, which can tackle the problem.