I Hear America Singing
Why Tone is so Important in Literary Works
The Revolutionary Tone of Literature
When writing any form of literature the tone is very important. To convey a specific message, one would have to use a specific tone. The way to establish tone is through word usage. Some words have more of an effect than others. The tone of a writer is very important because it gets the message conveyed. Tone helps the reader to feel emotion, think, and explore new ideas. Literature is a way to change the world through the minds of people, and tone plays a major role in gathering emotions.
Conveying the tone is very powerful because it captivates the mind and the Literature itself is a form of mind control over readers. Writers often target emotions, and they often chose strong a powerful words to get into the minds of readers. Langston Hughes simply uses the word “too.” Normally when a person uses the word “too” it is to include something or someone. In Hughes case it was to include the black race into Walt Whitman’s poems I hear America singing.
Hughes word choice makes readers see that black people are also a great part of America. His diction alone makes readers think about things and society at that time. If he would have used a less somber words his work would not have much effect on readers. He sets the tone with his word choice, and it was successfully conveyed to readers. Tone makes literature revolutionary. It captures the minds of people and digs into their emotions promoting a change of both mind and heart. When the hearts and minds of people are changed, that means that literature has effectively done what it was meant to do. Literature would not be as effective if it was not for tone.
Many have heard the quote “It is not what you say, but how you say it.” This quote alone gives you an idea of how effective tone is. When reading a poem the writer uses words that can alter the entire perception of a certain topic. The diction used usually conveys the tone of the writer. Tone is the emotion given by the writer to the audience. In Walt Whitman’s poem “I hear America Sinning” his tone gives readers a pride in America. However “I, Too Sing America” by Langston Hughes makes those same prideful Americans ashamed. A writer has the ability to make a normally jovial poem, and change it into a very sad and somber poem using tone. Tone makes the unbelievable to the believable. Literature is meant to alter the mind and tone helps to get readers thinking. The tone of literature allows readers to look at things from a different angle. It helps readers become more knowledgeable about what the author is trying to inform them of. When a person began to look at things differently, and explore new ideas revolutionary things began to happen. People began to change, and society starts to change because of literature and the tone that was established through it.
If the author uses strong diction his literature will have more of an impact on readers. The word choice is what makes the tone. Tone is the voice behind literature it gives literature the strength to get into people’s minds and change their way of thinking. Tone helps literature accomplish its main goal of changing people’s mindset. Tone captivates the emotions and helps readers relate emotionally to the overall point and message of a piece of literature. Without tone literature would not have be as effective in sparking revolutionary ideas into the minds and hearts of people.
The Poetry of Langston Hughes – A Review of Articles
Critical opinion differs about Langston Hughes’ poem, “I, Too, Sing America.” Certainly it’s reflective of Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing” because Hughes’ title clearly alludes to Whitman’s work. However, Hughes’ is a poet of great talent in his own right and should not be depicted as a Whitman imitator. I agree and disagree with points expressed by the authors of the critical articles I read about Hughes’ work. I do not; agree with Gohar and Nadell assertion that Hughes’ is referring to the institution of slavery in this work (Gohar2) (Nadell1). Rather, I believe he’s referring to the position of most African Americans in the period following the Great Depression.
In “Subverting the History of Slavery and Colonization in poetry of Langston Hughes,” Saddik Gohar claims that Langston Hughes poetically engages the history of racism and colonization linking the African American literary traditions with its counterparts in the United States. I disagree with Gohar because Langston Hughes’ poetry is an expression of events that were occurring at the time that included his political view on the situation. Hughes’ poem “I, Too, Sing America” is a poem written during the Great Depression in which Hughes informs his readers of his views of America and its politics. “But I laugh, and eat well, and grow strong but tomorrow I’ll be at the table when company comes” refers to the problems that occur in politics, and to social improvements as economic conditions improve. He’s referring to hardship at that time, and “I’ll be at the table when company comes” demonstrates the overcoming of those struggles through time.
The first stanza of “I, Too, Sing America” is a prospective view illustrating Hughes’ thoughts of what he believed would occur if the economic and political issues worsened. In the second stanza the poem’s direction of events reverses, conditions improve and Hughes writes about the positive outcome which reflects the work of Franklin D. Roosevelt in overturning the economy for the better. Hughes is a political poet who expresses politics through his works (Gipson 1). Therefore I disagree with Gohar’s critical evaluation.
In contrast to article one, article two evaluates Hughes’ work, “I, Too, Sing America” in an accepting and idealistic tone agreeing with the figurative meaning of the poem. In article two Martha Nadell argues the meaning of the poem is directed toward some type of economic issue, which Hughes chooses to express poetically. I agree with Nadell’s evaluation because based on the time period the poem was written the economy and politics were troubled; therefore knowing Hughes was a political individual who expressed events poetically I determined he was referring to the events occurring at that moment in time.
Nadell’s claim was brought up by her analysis of the Harlem Renaissance and what the people from there all had in common in their works (Commander 2). “This formulates a unified theory of image and text relations, rather than employing approach of the African American literacy movement,” (Gipson 2) which is relevant because this give me a view of Hughes’ thoughts about the Harlem Renaissance which influenced him to poetically approach political issues.
The Good Black Poet and Good Grey Poet discuss Hughes’ inspiration in poetry, why he wrote the poems he did, and the evaluation of his work. In this article Gipson argues that Hughes was inspired by Whitman and they share very similar views on society in different time periods. Gipson says Hughes and Whitman share common attitudes and certain feelings. I’d agree based on my research which shows both artists wrote jazzy poetry about the political events occurring through their time periods. “Yet had Whitman not written, Hughes would not be a part of great poet’s history.” (Gipson 3) I disagree with Gipson in this area because Hughes has many works of his own that he created, and even if Hughes admires Whitman, Hughes work reflects his views of American social and political institutions during his lifetime. Although most poems Langston Hughes has written are similar or share common thoughts of Whitman we can not conclude that he modeled his literary work after Whitman. “Whitman and Hughes are Democrats to the bone” (Gipson2). This quote is an example of how people compare the two poets, which I believe is irrelevant because they are two different poets who share common thoughts. Therefore I partly agree and disagree because some opinions are presented that differ with my analysis of Hughes work.
Near the end of Whitman’s poem, “I Hear America Singing.” Whitman writes, “Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else.” I believe this line states well my opinion of Hughes’ poem. Although Hughes’ clearly acknowledges his debt to Whitman, Hughes sings his own song and his writing reflects both his literary talent and his views on the social and economic position of America and of African American’s during his life