Langston Hughes I Hear America Singing

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The American Dream is a fantasy desired by many. Walt Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing" speaks for the average American worker "singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs." But in Langston Hughes's "I, Too" Hughes responds to Whitman and says "I, too, sing America." Both poems delve into the attitude of patriotism and the idea that hard work pays off, speaking for the lower class working Americans. However, both speakers offer different perspectives through the eyes of these contrasting speakers. Notwithstanding their differences, comparisons can be drawn between the two poems to illustrate one big picture of America and its ideals.

My mother used to tell me what her mother told her, "If you do not work, you will not make
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Hughes wrote this as a response to Whitman's poem and seeks to point out a blind spot in his ideal vision of America. Hughes begins by saying, "I, too, sing America," which is immediately recognizable as an allusion to Whitman's poem. However, it also implies that Whitman did not speak for Hughes. As Hughes's poem unfolds, the speaker describes himself as "the darker brother" (2). In claiming a voice for the African American population, Hughes suggests that this segment of the American people was not accounted for in Whitman's vision. He does not believe he was spoken for and must now speak up for himself. In comparison to Whitman's poem, Hughes establishes a triumphant tone, despite this speaker having yet to achieve his goal of freedom. The speaker refers to being sent "to eat in the kitchen / When company comes." This implies segregation and possibly slavery. He recognizes his oppression but plans to change this in the future. He does not envision the present, as Whitman does, but a better future, one in which "Nobody will / Say to me, 'Eat in the kitchen,'" (11-13). Hughes's focus on the future in his poem shows a contrasting vision of America from Whitman. In the final line of the poem, Hughes revises slightly the phrasing of the opening line: "I, too, am America" (18). This simple change in diction, from "sing" to "am" expands Hughes's vision to a more
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