He has been dead for more than half a century; however, his memories are still fresh among us. We are talking about the American poet, novelist, social activist, and playwright, Langston Hughes who is popular for his leadership in Harlem Renaissance.
He might have died at the age of 65, however, he will never disappear from our minds for his contribution through words. “I, too, Sing America” or just “I too” is one of the masterpieces of Langston Hughes. If you think words mean nothing, maybe you should consider reading this poem.
There is no denying that “I, Too” is an exemplarily succinct poem. Though it is too short in length it possesses a massive weight. The poem is eighteen lines. In fact, it is such a coincident that the number of words in “I, Too” and the age of Hughes at the time of his death are equal. That means, the poem has only 65 words and the poet, Langston Hughes passed away at the age of 65 too. However, that is just a coincidence, there is no implicit meaning.
Read the analysis, theme, and tone of the poem in specific sections below.
Summary and Analysis of Langston Hughes’ “I, Too”
Hughes’ poem “I, Too” begins with the phrase ‘I, too, sing America’. On the surface, it sounds positive as the speaker means to say that he is proud of being an American. However, the term ‘too’ alters the meaning of the whole sentence. It indicates that the speaker is different from an average American.
The second stanza of “I, Too” goes:
I am the darker brother.They send me to eat in the kitchenWhen company comes,But I laugh,And eat well,And grow strong.
Tomorrow,I’ll be at the tableWhen company comes.Nobody’ll dareSay to me,“Eat in the kitchen,”Then.
Likewise, the fourth stanza further shows a good omen for the marginalized people of America.
Besides,They’ll see how beautiful I amAnd be ashamed—
The Theme of Langston Hughes’ Poem “I, Too”
Though Langston Hughes’ poem “I, Too” carries multiple themes, its primary theme is ‘racism’. The speaker does not directly say there is racism. However, he implicitly means it. As a matter of fact, he means to say that racism is rampant today which must end not slowly, but fastly and gradually.
Another important theme of the poem “I, Too” is ‘freedom’. Through the poem, the speaker expresses his quest for freedom from the centuries-long racism. In fact, the colored men want to be free from the darkness that they have been kept into so far. They want to proudly expose their blackness to live freely as the White does.
Yet another theme of Hughes’ poem “I, Too” is perseverance. In spite of all the troubles facing him at present, he perseveres to overcome all of them. With perseverance, the speaker believes that he will gain freedom slowly but definitely. Hence, he is not taken aback by the current circumstances. He rather initiates a constructive fight against racism because he knows, a destructive response to racism does not work.
The tone of Langston Hughes’ Poem “I, Too”
Unlike most other poems against racism, Langston Hughes’ “I, Too” has a very positive tone. The poem does not reprimand the dominant White. It rather says everything implicitly. Moreover, Hughes does not point out any fault of the White people.
As a matter of fact, the speaker does not want to take revenge against the White folks. Instead, he wants to work together with the White to end racism. Hence, the poem offers a very constructive solution to racism. Therefore, the poem “I, Too” opens and ends with a positive and tone.