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JAMES LANGSTON HUGHES

Critical Analysis of the Selected Poem

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Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?
Critical Analysis of the Selected Poem
The Student - Denise Hardin
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Pictures of Langston Hughes

by Denise Hardin

The website where I found this creative work is www.poets.org.  I chose the poem “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too? by Langston Hughes.  The specific location for the poem can be found at this address http://www.poets.org/poems/poems.cfm?45442B7C000C04020070.

 

The poem is setup to be a letter to Americans, specifically White Americans.  It is written during WWII. This was the time between 1939-1945 when Hitler and Mussolini wanted to control the world. The letter does not indicate the particular setting where the solder penned this communication. The audience is aware that he is located somewhere in Europe.

 

The poem’s thesis is its title, “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?”  The soldier tells the reader what he has done in the war:

 

“I wear a U. S. uniform.

I've done the enemy much harm,

I've driven back

The Germans and the Japs,

From Burma to the Rhine.

On every battle line,

I've dropped defeat

Into the Fascists' laps.

 

I've seen my buddy lying

Where he fell.”

 

He has experiences the same victories and tragedies as those of his white counterparts.  Yet when they come home the black soldier will still be govern by the racist laws in a country that he has pledge to fight for. He conveys these feelings in these two lines:

 

“Here in my own, my native land,

“Will the Jim Crow laws still stand?”

 

Hughes does not mix words in this poem. The way he wrote this poem in free verse allows you to sense his emotions on each line. You can feel his anger with America and those who support her racist laws and enforce them.  You can taste his disappointment with a country that will ask those who she has held back to fight for democracy and freedom for other nationalities yet she refuse to give freedom to those who live within her borders.  You can feel his urgency for an answer from those that fight along side black soldiers in a war but will not eat with a black man in a restaurant. Why are we kindred when we are willing to die for America’s interest but are enemies when the black man just want to live in America? He illustrates all these feelings in these three stanzas:

 

“Will Dixie lynch me still

When I return?

Or will you comrades in arms

From the factories and the farms,

Have learned what this war

Was fought for us to learn?

           

When I take off my uniform,

Will I be safe from harm—

Or will you do me

As the Germans did the Jews?

When I’ve helped this world to save,

Shall I still be color’s slave?

Or will Victory change

Your antiquated views?

 

You can’t say I didn’t fight

To smash the Fascists’ might.

You can’t say I wasn’t with you

in each battle.

As a soldier, and a friend.

When this war comes to an end,

Will you herd me in a Jim Crow car

Like cattle?”

 

The poem, rather the letter, is sign by “GI Joe”.  A named used for soldiers throughout the world. Which mean in a sense it could be from anyone who has fought for a country but does not have personal freedom inside that same country. I believe it symbolizes the way America treated African Americans during this time. They were not individuals but a group; people without their own identity. Hughes uses the “GI Joe” name to reverse America’s rule back on herself. You have disenfranchised African Americans as a group; you should give them rights as a group. Don’t just free the soldier who fought and survive the war, free his people who he has represented in that war.

 

The war ended in 1945 and history tells us that African-Americans did not receive equal opportunities as they came home from the war. Did this poem help or hinder that cause? The answer is no for both parts. Sadly America did not see her sins only the sins of others.

           

Therefore the answer to the soldier’s question – “Will V-Day Be Me-Day Too?” was absolutely not.

 

I love Langston Hughes’ work. He passion for his people, his commitment to their struggle does not have to be inferred in his words, they are felt when you read them. I think much of what he said some 65-70 years ago could still be applied too much of the struggle African Americans are still trying to overcome.

 

The website where I found the poem is not only dedicated to Langston Hughes, but to many poets. You can find out information on each as well as read some of their selected works. What I found out when I visited this site is April is National Poetry Month.  The website also give tips on writing poetry and highlights new poetry from not so famous writers. Simply this website is wonderful for anyone who is interested in writing poetry as well as those who are looking for their favorite poet.

 

An eJournal article created by Denise Hardin
ENGL 3134-R50/Spring 2005
Tennessee Regents Online Degree Program
Created on May 2, 2005