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Langston Hughes's The Ways of White Folks,

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Introduction

In Langston Hughes's The Ways of White Folks, Hughes illustrates the deepest feelings of resistance and frustration from blacks towards the white-American society in which they live. By analyzing only a few of his short stories, one can see the techniques Hughes used to show the treatment of blacks in different geographical locations, class roles, and also in those musically inclined. In his stories, he blurs the racial line that separates the North and South United States while at the same time accentuating the racial limitations between The United States and Europe. He also illustrates that though the treatment of blacks by the upper class appears to be less violent than that of the lower classes, it offers the same, if not more, belittling condescension. In addition, Hughes also demonstrates, through the medium of music, the ironic hypocrisy and envy of many American whites towards artistically talented blacks. With these strategies, Hughes attacks the issue of race, which defines the social relationships in America today. The distinctions made of the geographical settings in Hughes' work are separated into the possibilities and limitations of blacks in America as compared to their possibilities and limitations in Europe. This distinction is most emphasized in Hughes's story "Poor Little Black Fellow." ...read more.

Middle

Mr. Lloyd gladly gives the narrator a generous salary, helping him to pay for college. When one of Mr. Lloyd's many girls calls him a "darkie" and a "nigger," Mr. Lloyd responds saying, "This is no ordinary boy, Lucille. True, he's my servant, but I've got him in Columbia studying to be a dentist, and he's just as white inside as he is black," (59). Mr. Lloyd shows little concern for racial boundaries, but he still exhibits other immoral actions by hitting many of the girls he brings back with him. The fact that he even pursues other girls is immoral because he has a wife who is paralyzed. The narrator appears very grateful toward Mr. Lloyd, however, until he brings back Pauline, a speakeasy singer from Harlem. Mr. Lloyd appears completely enthralled by her, despite the fact that she is black, and he pours his money into her. She tells the narrator that she is using Mr. Lloyd for the money, and that she has a man whom she is in love with: "'You've got to kid white folks along,' she said to me. 'When you're depending on 'em for a living, make 'em think you like it,'" (62). Pauline then endorses her hatred toward whites when she says, "I laugh with 'em and they think I like 'em. ...read more.

Conclusion

Roy is trapped in this racial margin of Negroes who have money from, in his case, their musical talents. Had he not exploited these talents and ascended the money tree, he might have lived, but he also would never have seen Europe or nice clothes on his back or even open-minded, impartial white people. Perhaps Hughes' is trying to make the reader ask the question of 'why?' As is evident throughout Hughes' work, the racial identity of blacks is a limitation as well as a prospect in which their resistance and frustration is truly emphasized. Through the implements of geographical settings, Hughes' gives a view of the impartialness of Europe as compared to the deep-seated hatred of the United States. Even the seemingly indifferent portrayal of the bourgeoisie has its prejudices and motivations. It even appears as though blacks are categorized and stereotyped by all white Americans into a separate and foreign class of their own (a distinction that actually promotes the emergence of black essentialism and identity). This identity is one that is not achieved without loss, as is shown through the difficulties of the musically gifted in Hughes' work. The portrait of race that Hughes paints compels the notion that race is an issue that has run far deeper than any other human emotion and understanding; ultimately defining, whether consciously or unconsciously, all social relationships. Kim Velez A. Simon 20th Century Civilizations I Final Essay 1 ...read more.

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