A Deeper Look: Langston Hughes's 'Ballad of the Landlord'

796 Words Jul 11th, 2018 4 Pages
Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes wrote the poem “Ballad of the Landlord” in 1940, a time of immense discrimination against people of African descent. The poem details an account of a tenant, later found out to be an African American, who is dissatisfied with his rental property. The tenant is politely asking the landlord to make the needed repairs on the realty, but instead the landlord demands to be paid. The tenant refuses to pay the rent, and the police are called after a threat is made towards the landlord. The police arrest the tenant; he is jailed for ninety days with no bail. Langston Hughes’s “Ballad of the Landlord” is a startling poem that underlines the discrimination African Americans had to cope with in the …show more content…
Other examples of dialect include the use of the word “ain’t” in line 21 and the repeated use of the word “gonna” in lines 14, 15 and 19. These words are not considered proper speech for educated individuals. Further illustrations include the succinct sentences of the police: “Arrest. / Precinct Station,” which show the perspectives of the police officers and their upfront aggression towards the tenant due to his race (27-28). The dialect used in the lines of “Ballad of the Landlord” is a important aspect to the poem seeing that it highlights the differences between the speakers, which better shows which speakers were exercising racism against the tenant. The angry and aggressive tone displays the attitudes and aggression towards the tenant for being African American. The tenant begs for repairs and his denied by his cruel landlord. The hostility of the poem can be seen in “You ain’t gonna be able to say a word / If I land my fist on you” as the tenant threatens the landlord for not repairing the home(19-20). The landlord is aggressive as well; for instance when he calls the police he says “He’s [the tenant] trying to ruin the government / And overturn the land,” which shows the landlord’s distaste for the tenant (23-14). The excerpt displays the landlord’s thinking that African Americans are ruining the United States and shouldn’t even be part of the
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