Professor O'Keefe - Poem Explication
21 November 2008
"Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes
His tone in the poem also contributes to the meaning. His tone seems almost confessional, like the poet is talking about his own experience in America. Hughes points out all the flaws in the ideas of equal opportunity and freedom in his poem. Then periodically he speaks to the reader outright with lines such as, "O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath-- America will be!" Speaking outright to the reader is very effective in communicating his ideas. These words really make the reader feel for the speaker and hear the idea that America has not been "good" to everyone equally. In fact, for some, America has never yet lived up to its reputation.
Throughout the poem, Hughes uses rhetorical questions to cause the reader to pause and think. For example, "The free? Who said free?" (894 line 51) makes the reader question that exactly the free in this country are. With rhetorical questions, the reader is supposed to pause and think. But just as quickly, Hughes provides answers, "Not me" in an indirect method. He answers the question quickly for the reader.
The most powerful aspect of the poem "Let America Be America Again" is the repeated use of anaphora. By using this repetition and parallel structure, Hughes gives the reader many ideas right in a row to think about. In the beginning of the poem the repeated phrase "let it be" tells the reader right away that America is not what it was supposed to be. In between, in parenthesis for emphasis, is the repeated idea of "America never was America to me" (893 line 5). And to answer the unspoken question of to whom America was unfair, Hughes uses the anaphora "I am the.." and continues to list all of the people who were never able to reap the benefits of the American Dream. This he does in two different stanzas and in between these two stanzas is the repetition of "of grab the" in order to show that America has taken money and property from some in order to give it to others. Anaphora is used for emphasis, and Hughes uses it well to emphasize the idea of inequality.
The poem "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes is a powerful indictment of the idea of equal opportunity for all in America. He clearly shows the reader that there never was such an idea of equality for all through such rhetorical device as connotation, rhetorical questions, and anaphora. He emphasizes all the people who have not had access to the American Dream and gives each group of people a voice in this poem. However, Hughes ends this