Langston Hughes’ Poem “I, Too” Summary, Analysis, Theme, Tone

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 kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
The second stanza further clarifies the first stanza. The word ‘darker’ means colored yet the speaker believes that he is a ‘brother’ of the White American. Furthermore, the second and third lines depict the culture of considering the colored folks inferior. Whenever a visitor comes to visit the White people they try to hide their servants.
Furthermore, the last three lines are so powerful that it has the capacity to motivate all the marginalized. Here, ‘eat well’ means that he prepares to fight against the culture of racism. The speaker, actually, feels happy when he is sent offstage because he can make ample preparation for the fight against racism. Eat does not necessarily mean the literal act of eating. Instead, it means feeding his mind with abstract weapons.
In the third stanza, the speaker draws an imaginative picture of the future.
Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.
He imagines that someday in the future, the colored people will share the table with the White people. At that time, not even the White folks will dare to send the Afro-Americans off to kitchen while they are eating. Hence, it presents the hope for the eradication of racism.

Likewise, the fourth stanza further shows a good omen for the marginalized people of America.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
The speaker says that the White men will finally realize that there is nothing in color. In fact, being colored is not a defect per se. As a matter of fact, the currently dominant White folks will be ashamed of their misbehaviors upon the Black community. Moreover, the long dash says a lot about the torture the White people inflict upon the colored people. In fact, the speaker cannot explain it in words.
Finally, the last stanza is only a single line: ‘I, too, am America.’ This a hell of a punch line. Through the sentence, the speaker says that he is as much a part of America as the White people are. In fact, the speaker is a representative Afro-American.

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 do.

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.

1 Comment

  1. Everything is very open with a really clear description of the challenges.
    It was really informative. Your site is extremely helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

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