Type: Definition Essays
Sample donated: Annette Banks
Last updated: May 26, 2019
Every poet has a unique writing style that can be replicated. Life experience or even their own simple thought process helps them create magical works of art. One amazing poet that expresses his great writing talents is Langston Hughes.
Growing up in a time period were African- Americans were not accepted yet by society he faced many external and internal conflicts. Through poems such as “Cultural Exchange” Hughes’ writes to relate to the hardships his people have. Langston Hughes’ ” Cultural Exchange” uses elements like context, literary devices such as metaphor, the title, and rhymes to create a paradoxical feeling of self conflict of dreams versus reality to help readers to understand his personal struggle with being an African-Americans.To begin, by his use of context this poem could be analyzed. The context of the poem can be analyzed by the collection it was published along with. The collection Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods of Jazz was published in 1961. His work from the 1920’s or 30’s is a more milder tone and speaks on the inclusion of African-Americans in the white society.
However, in “Cultural Exchange” his writing is more critical.For example, Hughes’ writes about wealthy Negroes have white servants,white sharecroppers work the black plantations,and colored children have white mammies”(Lines 47). He writes about his imagination of a reversal roles between the black and whites, he pictures “f white women becoming white servants for the now upper class blacks like the black “mammy” was to serve to white folk for generations.The names he goes on to name are names of segregated families with black “mammies” , ” Cultural Exchange” illustrates Hughes’ disappointment in his passed dreams of just wanting to be accepted in the white community as an equal instead of being seen as inferior or beneath them. Hughes wants the black community to do their part and join politics and stand for the rights they have and want to have to make a better future. In addition, to the analysis within the context of the poem the title speaks volumes.
The word cultural exchange can be defined as a broad definition given to any mutual sharing of information, usually cultural, between two or more species for the purpose of improving friendship and understanding between them. The structure of the poem can be analyzed into two columns: one column is a poetic structure written in a beautiful free verse, but the other side is an imagined jazz musical which is meant to be performed instead of read aloud. Mirrored to this writing style is the divide between the blacks and the whites. Hughes’s use of the title truly wraps his feeling of this divide.Music is the only thing he can use to elevate his stress and by making the melody through his words he created this musical note. This large disconnection of the white culture from his own black culture. The cultural exchange talks about the inclusion of two races and the benefits the two races could have if joined together.Next, this poem could also be analyzed through literary devices such as metaphors.
In the second line of the first stanza,for example he mentions,”doors of paper on which the dust makes a scratchy sound”,(Hughes stanza 1). Literally this could be analyzed as referring to the vulnerability of the physical building, but metaphorically this line could have a double meaning. The people who live in these poor buildings are being exposed to all kinds of threats which leaves them vulnerable. This could be confirmed by the last three lines of that stanza. Hughes writes “amorphous jack-o-lanterns” leaping around the houses and blowing doors down. This metaphor sort of demonizes halloween because you can comparing the jack-o- lanterns blowing down houses to radical racial groups that cause terror. .
At the time this poem was written the KKK was a big racial group that tormented blacks and anyone else they did not like. The KKK ran around preparing to hunt in these areas where Blacks were most vulnerable. Through his metaphorical messages Hughes creates a paradoxical feeling of fear that the blacks had about the community they were forced to live in. The statement is almost contradicting because they live in such poor conditions and in fear yet, no one will step up to change that; blacks rather live in fear than speak up against the whites. Lastly, through the use of rhythm an analysis can be made.
In the time period this poem is written music played an important factor in people’s lives, giving them a feeling of hope and safety. Through his rhyme scheme in “cultural exchange” a melody of free jazz can be heard. This melody was inspired by jazz music and can be heard in the poem in two instances. First the poems start where Hughes writes “in the’ and then writes “in the quarter of the “. In these first and second lines, before he completes the sentences “in the quarter of the negros”. The hesitation to fully write out the sentence, can be compared to the hesitation of the jazz sound or the dramatic warming up within the sound of the jazz music.
Therefore, you can analyze the poem within the rhythm and see how music helped life flow.In conclusion, through context, metaphors and rhythm, Langston Hughes evokes feeling and emotion through his words. Due to his life’s hardships, the only way he felt he could express himself and his thoughts is through poetry. In the 1960’s because of the Civil Rights Movements, African Americans felt more disconnected from the white community. Outlets like stories, music and especially poetry, help African americans epxressthemsleves in the only possible way they felt people would actually listen, Nevertheless, people all around had different ways of expressing themselves, but it takes people like Langston Hughes to turn his thoughts into powerful messages that make people think and want to make a change/difference.