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“Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes Essay

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Updated: May 24th, 2021

Introduction

Today, there are numerous appeals to reconsider the way America evolves as it gradually loses its character. The adherers of the idea say that the fundamental system of values that were the basis for the development of the young state became irrelevant today. The ideas of liberty, freedom, equality, and wealth could not be applied to modern U.S. society. However, these claims are not new. For instance, Langston Hughes, in his poem Let America Be America Again, written in 1935, touches upon the problems of American identity and its deceptive character.

American Identity

The theme of identity could be considered the central one for the poem. Even its title, Let America be America Again, emphasizes the fact that the state took the wrong turning and moves in the wrong direction. Hughes says, “Let it be the dream it used to be” (Hughes 2). He might appeal to the famous American dream, which was the main moving force that made thousands of individuals contribute to the state’s development. However, at the moment, the country is different, and the author shows it “Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed” (Hughes 6). Hughes also cogitates about the ideals of liberty, equality, and opportunities for every person who arrives at this land. The lines “O, let my land be a land where Liberty / Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, / But opportunity is real” (Hughes 11-13) show the author’s attitude to the current situation in the state and his perspective on the topical problem.

Hughes is sure that the country has lost its identity, and ideas of equality, tolerance, and democracy are no more “the air we breathe” (Hughes 14). His message sounds more convincing due to the use of particular literary devices. For instance, numerous repetitions could be found in the poem. The author repeats “let America” (Hughes1), “let my land” (Hughes 12), “let it be” (Hughes 2), etc. This literary device helps to create a specific atmosphere of intimacy as if the author prays for America and wants it to recover from a disease. It could also be compared to sitting at the bed of a patient who is doomed to die. There are also numerous alliterations that are used by Hughes to introduce a particular sounding and make the poem more solemn. These could be found in repeated sounds dr, ds: “dream the dreamers dreamed” (Hughes 6), “dreams we’ve dreamed” (Hughes 54), “songs we’ve sung” (Hughes 55), “hopes we’ve held” (Hughes 56), etc. In such a manner, the author managers to create a unique sound pattern that contributes to the improved comprehension of the main idea.

Deceptive Ideals

Therefore, there is another important theme Hughes discusses. Regretting the gradual decline of fundamental values, the author states that America has never been the state it was supposed to be. For instance, the verses “there’s never been equality for me, / Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free’” (Hughes 14-15) contain the bitter irony and Hughes real attitude to deceptive ideas that have never been applied to the American society. No matter whether you are a white man, or a black slave, or a Red Indian, the same problems will be topical to you. The author uses powerful stylistic devices to emphasize the gap which exists between the postulated ideals and reality. Hughes opposes his appeals to America to his personal comments like “America never was America to me” (Hughes 5) and “It never was America to me” (Hughes 10).

In such a way, he cultivates the idea that the U.S. identity is false and deceptive as there is no place for the American dream or any other ideals promoted by dreamers. Finally, introducing the rhetorical question “The free?” (Hughes 52), the author draws the line in his cogitations and makes the conclusion. There are many other questions the author asks a reader “Who said the free? Not me? / Surely not me? The millions on relief today? / The millions shot down when we strike? / The millions who have nothing for our pay?” (Hughes 53-56). They all are found in one stanza, which could be taken as the author’s attempt to draw readers attention to the information he is going to present and make them think about the real image of the American state. Finally, Hughes uses personal pronouns like I, me, we to demonstrate that all people living in the state are affected by this problem and that he identifies himself with them to ask questions on behalf of the whole nation, which feels deceived.

Conclusion

Altogether, Hughes poem Let America Be America Again could be considered an important literary work that demonstrates the ongoing character of the appeals to restore America and its identity. The poem is full of the author’s cogitations about the issue and his perspectives on the American dream, ideals of liberty, freedom, and equality. Hughes shows that America has never been the state it was expected to be “O, let America be America / The land that never has been yet” (Hughes 63-64).

Work Cited

Hughes, Langston. poets.org, Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021, May 24). "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/let-america-be-america-again-by-langston-hughes/

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""Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes." IvyPanda, 24 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/let-america-be-america-again-by-langston-hughes/.

1. IvyPanda. ""Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes." May 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/let-america-be-america-again-by-langston-hughes/.


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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes." May 24, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/let-america-be-america-again-by-langston-hughes/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes'. 24 May.

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