Langston Hughes: The most versatile literary figure of the 20th century
“Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”, is undoubtedly one of the most famous quotes of the Langston Hughes which is found in his poem titled the dreams. However, it is apparent that Langston Hughes was first recognized as significant literary figure during the period referred to as the “Harlem Renaissance” due to the massive number of black writers who were emerging (Dace 78). Hence, Langston Hughes is evidently among the most prolific and versatile of modern American authors who to a greater extent managed to achieve distinction in drama, fiction and poetry. Race was also at the center of his work as well as the heritage, dignity, and beauty of blacks in America. However, Hughes was never in any way a racist and always he strived towards seeking to speak to the entire American populations even at some time drawing criticism from his fellow blacks (Berry 45). Moreover, he always tried his best to ensure he talked about the issues that were affecting all the Americans preferably on the larger issues concerned with economic, social, as well as political justice (Hoena 52).
Hughes, who claimed that Carl Sandburg, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, and Walt Whitman to be his primary influences, is mostly known for his colorful as well as insightful portrayals of the life of black Americans which he wrote during his twenties through the sixties. This he wrote numerous short stories, novels, and poetry, as well as plays. Moreover, he is also popularly known for his involvement in the world of jazz together with the direct influence this had about his writing as it is seen in his novel “Montage of a Dream Deferred” (Dace 132). In addition, Hughes work and life was undoubtedly one of the most crucial contributor towards the shaping the artistic contributions of the artists during the period of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. However, unlike several other notable black American poets who were famously known during this time Hughes totally refused to embark on the differentiation between the black America common experience and his own personal experiences. Hence, he was always interested in telling the stories concerning his people in ways that exactly had a reflection of what their actual culture was, with an inclusion of both their suffering as well as their love of laughter, music, and also the language itself (Berry 145).
Additionally, it was also the belief of Hughes to put more emphasis on humanity as well as a lot of hope for attaining a world in which the entire of its people could both understandably and sanely live together, an aspect that greatly contributed to the decline of his popularity during the latter years of his life that were characterized by racial turbulence. Hence, unlike most of the other younger as well as more militant literary writers, Hughes was always n focused and never lost his conviction at no one time that a majority of people were generally good, in almost all the countries in which he had lived and visited as well as the races he had interacted with (Trotman 68). However, the review of his poems collection in The Panther and the Lash which involved the collection of the Poems of Our Times in Poetry subtitle it is clear to recognize that his sensibility had so far kept pace with the drastically changing times, however, he had a strong criticism of his lack of a personal political stance (Hoena 72). However, in the different settings of his different poems, Hughes is actually greatly prone to the sympathy of the starkly as well as the antithetical politics of race. Moreover, most readers may tend to appreciate his sense of tolerance towards all the rival as well as the mutually hostile views as well as opinions from his most outspoken compatriots who were to some extent tempted to ask the actual politics that Hughes abided by (Walker 81).
Langston Hughes was from the early years of his life always focused towards becoming a successful writer and poet. Hence, irrespective of the racial opposition as well as the segregation laws that he faced in his life, these consistently suppressing forces did not stop Hughes from striving to achieve his goals. However, Hughes spend most of his time in New York from where he could enjoy the color as well as diversity which he was not in a position to find in any other place outside of Harlem (Liukkonen 3). In addition, despite devoting a lot of his time in writing he would also visit the Harlem Public Library branch there, however, along the attending Broadway shows which he often did he was also involved in the socializing with the rest of the other young African American artists and intellectuals from the Harlem region as well (Hill 35). At some point Langston Hughes was forced to leave college in order to start doing various menial jobs such as an assistant cook, bouncer and later a freighter, a job which led him to experience a turning point in his life (Berry 75). It was during this period when Hughes vowed to embark on a process of renouncing what the fantasy most books and literature in the world had to offer (Bone 43). At this time Hughes continued to write and extensively read as well as embarking on a process of self realization which enabled him to fully recognize his potentials (Walker 132).
Upon his return from his trip while working as a sailor he was received a great welcome and appreciation by the movements that were carrying out their activities in Harlem as well as the magazines (Cooper 123). During this period Hughes had actually published a reasonable number of books in literature, poetry, and plays before he had left the country. Hence, by then was no aware of how influential and important his works had become to so many people. However, it was during this period when in the life of Langston Hughes when his works received a commendable awards as well as recognition (Dunham 65).
Hughes did not accept creating fantasy stories about life. Hence, he was mostly involved in writing about the things he knew and felt, thus through this way he managed to have the most impact on readers of his works. However, after many praises and tributes were given to Hughes immediately after his death in 1967, certain sections of critics started asking questions concerning him as well as his literary career. Additionally, they would also question Hughes focus on Harlem whereby most of them wondered whether the best of his works were done in the period preceding 1930s. However, considering his continued efforts and tireless contributions towards the field of literary writing undoubtedly made him the most prolific and versatile African American during that time (Dace 125). This is mainly after considering both the quality of his literary works and the message which he consistently communicated to his audiences through dramas and plays as well as the readers of his poems and novels.
Up to today, Hughes has continued to maintain his presence mostly in the in literary studies, as well as the core curriculum in the entire educational system (Liukkonen 4). Therefore, this presence in conjunction with the impressive movement that his work has continued to create in the readers attest to his exceptional talent as a poet and writer as well as his true value. Furthermore, since the time Langston Hughes initially joined the literary work up to today his works have continued to remain a key figure, hence offers great value and from numerous scholarly institutions today (Bone 112).
Hughes had extensively published before his death due to abdominal surgery complications. This is mainly because he wrote three collections of short stories, two novels, sixteen books of poems, four volumes of “documentary” and “editorial” fiction, twenty plays, musicals and operas, children’s poetry, a dozen television and radio scripts three autobiographies and dozens of magazine articles as well as editing seven anthologies (Dunham 87). In addition, to prove his literary prowess, Langston Hughes managed to receive numerous recognitions and awards for his contributions to both contemporary and African American literature with the most prestigious award he received been the NAACP’s Springarn Medal. In conclusion, Langston Hughes is undoubtedly one of the most influential literary artist who greatly contributed towards the literature field as a whole through his extensive work in the literary work (Hill 116).
Berry, Faith. Langston Hughes, Before and Beyond Harlem. New York, NY: Wings Books, 1995.
Berry, S. L., Langston Hughes. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 1994.
Bone, Robert A. The Negro Novel in America. Yale: Yale University Press, 1965.
Cooper, Floyd. Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes. New York, NY: Philomel Books, 1994.
Dace, Tish, ed. Langston Hughes: The Contemporary Reviews. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1997.
Dunham, Montrew. Langston Hughes: Young Black Poet. New York, NY: Aladdin, 1995.
Hill, Christine, H. Langston Hughes: Poet of the Harlem Renaissance. Springfield, NJ: Hanslow Publishers, 1997.
Hoena, Bross, A. Langston Hughes: Great American writer. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2010.
Liukkonen, Petri. “Langston Hughes (1902-1967)” 2008. August 16, 2011. http://kirjasto.sci.fi/lhughes.htm
Trotman, James, C. Langston Hughes: The Man, His Art, and His Continuing Influence. New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995.
Walker, Alice. Langston Hughes: American Poet. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1988.