Rebecca Lee / Madrona Middle School 8th grade
Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes’ poems have been a great impact to people all across America. Both write about America’s identity and describe the American Dream, but in drastically different perspectives. Hughes focuses on the reality of this world and Whitman focuses on the happiness of those who have succeeded in following their dream. Although both may be different in numerous ways, they both have impacted the American culture.
Who is America? Whitman’s poem “I Hear America Singing” paints a picture of various workers, some of which are carpenters, boatmen, and mechanics. He includes people of different backgrounds and aspirations, but excludes slaves. On the other hand, Hughes’ poem “I, Too” conveys feelings of determination. Hughes only has one character in his poem which is himself, but he represents the whole African American community as a whole. He writes about how although some may not acknowledge it, African Americans are apart of America too and that one day, they will be treated better and be accepted as people.
The American Dream can mean many different things: Freedom, security, possibilities. Whitman and Hughes both analyze it in different ways. In “I Hear America Singing”, the American Dream means having a stable life where you can be happy and support your family even if you don’t own all the luxuries. His poem exhibits people with different occupations, yet the whole community is singing their own song of joy. In “I, Too” however, the American Dream is interpreted quite differently. He views the American Dream as freedom for everyone no matter where they came from. His version of the American Dream is for everyone to be treated equally without being judged based on your ethnicity or outside appearance.
Both poems have many similarities such as being free verse, using repetition, and including people singing. However, these poems have two completely different messages they are trying to depict. Whitman’s illustrates joyousness and positivity, while Hughes illustrates hope and determination. These poems give hope to the despair and optimism to the distressed . Like Hughes says, “Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed/ I, too, am America.” His poems helps people who may feel discriminated have the desire to succeed, because he could do it too.
<Rebecca Lee / Madrona Middle School 8th grade