Term Paper: How Do Langston Hughes and Tennessee Williams Compare to Each Other?

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Langston Hughes and Tennessee Williams:

Men of Many Words

Life imitates art but art would go nowhere without the human experience. Art is an expression of life but it is also an attempt to understand it and share that understanding. Two writers that have used their work to influence art and life are Langston Hughes and Tennessee Williams. Hughes comes from an experience that forced him to see the racial aspects of life. He remembered what happened to him and he witnessed what happened to others and from this he found a way of dealing with the pain that comes with oppression. William, too, learned to express the delicate experiences of life through writing about his own observations and thoughts. Hughes is identified with Harlem and Tennessee is associated with the South. Both men found their voice and connected with their audiences and left lasing impressions. They find meaning through examining the human experience.

We always hear location is the key to many things. For some, it is the key to finding one's voice. Hughes found his voice in Harlem as he began to appreciate his heritage at a time when the country was still racially divided. Hughes experienced a painful prejudice incident that caused him to look inward for ways to cope and help others heal. He became a champion for human rights and during the Harlem Renaissance, his voice could not have been more welcome. Hughes was a powerful writer in Harlem and was even referred to as the "bard of Harlem" (Schmidt 707). Schmidt also writes that Hughes wrote poetry with "ironies and radical reversals generally avoids staginess; and poems of racial protest and definition" (Schmidt 708). The human experience became important to Hughes as he discovered a way to express himself and help others.

In his poem, "Harlem" Hughes demonstrates the power of the written word. Dreams are the theme of the poem as the poet asks what happens to a man when he is prevented from reaching his dream. Niemi claims the poem is "justly revered as Hughes's most powerful poem of social protest" (Niemi 415). The poet is brave enough to ask the difficult questions and while it rhetorical, he would sincerely like to know the answers. He wants everyone to consider what happens when African-American dreams are "endlessly deferred by white society" (415) and "What happens to a dream deferred?" (Hughes 1). Hughes takes his thoughts to the next logical step and consideres what may happen and asks if a dream deferred explodes, hinting that this could be the worst thing any man could experience. The poet's last question last is meant to shock readers to a certain extent. The "raisin in the sun" (Hughes 3), and the "stink of rotten meat" (6) are visual images the poet plants in out minds to force us to think about his questions. Hughes intends to be taken seriously because his question is valid and worth, at the very least, thought.

Williams, born Thomas Lanier Williams, grew up in the South and because he was thought to have a heart condition, he was always somewhat separate from others. Williams, very much an isolated individual, turned to writing even when he was young. He also suffered with some mental difficulties that caused him to end up in the care of his grandparents in Memphis, where he was introduced to the theater. It was during that year he wrote a play and actually saw it performed on the stage and witnessed the audience's reaction to it. From that moment on, he decided "decided that writing would be his career" (Johns) writes Johns. His plays explored "basic themes through what have been labeled degenerate characters and sordid situations… [END OF PREVIEW]

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