Cultural Awareness

The Harlem Renaissance was a literary blooming of writers that gave birth to a new black cultural identity in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most significant of these writers was Langston Hughes. He gained notoriety by writing about the cultural experiences of blacks in that particular time period. He gave us a particularly descriptive and humorous play Soul Gone Home. The condition of African Americans was brought to light by the dialog between the mother and her dead son. One can understand the poverty of the family and thus most blacks of that time when the mother says “when I had money,ain’t I fed you?” and the son replies “most of the time you ain’t had no money” (Hughes 1002). In addition to being poor, the boy had to grow up “in the streets”(1002). This was not because he didn’t have a home but because he lacked supervision. The mother had to work and the father was not a active in their lives. Also, one can see the living conditions as described in the stage directions at the beginning of the play where Hughes writes “a tenement room,bare,ugly dirty.” with a “cot” in the middle of the floor (1001). Sadly, these were the conditions of the times. One other notable issue that Hughes brings to light is education. The mother doesn’t understand some of the words the son speaks to her and she says “where’d you learn all them big words?” (1002). At this point we begin to realize that the education of blacks in the 20’s and 30’s was inferior to that of whites. They just were not given the same opportunities or equal facilities. The vernacular Hughes chooses to write this play in further solidifies the plight of the blacks of that time and their need for higher education. It is interesting to note that he doesn’t shy away from this type of speech just to satisfy his white readers. He is more concerned with accuracy and being an advocate for his fellows. Hughes does a fantastic job of making us aware of the cultural condition of the African American of the early 1900’s.

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