Analysis Of I Hear America Singing

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Francis Scott Key famously composed, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave / O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” Key writes these lines as the last words to the American national anthem. But, who are the free and brave? Who are Americans? In 1860, Walt Whitman answered in his poem I Hear America Singing, by writing hardworking americans singing as each worked. Establishing Americans as the working class. Around 60 years later, Langston Hughes adds his own thoughts on to Whitman’s poems by writing I, Too, Sing America. Langston Hughes builds on Walt Whitman’s poems by adding his perspective on who are americans. Hughes presents the slave narrative in America. In Whitman’s poem, only white individuals are featured. This is supported by Whitman’s catalog of the workers' jobs. He writes, “Those of mechanics...The carpenter... The mason... The boatman... the deckhand... The shoemaker... the hatter...The wood-cutter’s...”. Only whites in Whitman’s era could find the jobs listed. While Whitman was a firm abolitionist, he doesn’t include blacks in his portrayal of America. Although this may be true, Whitman leaves I Hear America Singing open ended, as if to invite future poets to add on. As a result, Hughes inserts the people Whitman left out. Hughes begins, “I, too, sing America. / I am the darker brother. / They send me to eat in the kitchen / When company comes, / But I laugh, / And eat well, / And grow strong.”. Right out of the gate Hughes establishes that he is writing from the perspective of a slave. He’s not angry or sad from being sent away, instead he laughs and grows. Americans have a nac for hiding parts of history, but Hughes forces the reader to face the fact the slavery did happen. No one can change that. Hughes writing perspective and symbolism parallels Whitman's poem. Whitman is known for writing in the first person. For this reason, his poetry is immensely intimate because it feels like he is writing directly to his reader. Whitman also is known for playing with the idea of individual self and the collective self. In I Hear America Singing, Whitman’s first person writing draws the reader in, but it’s the collective self that emanates the purpose of the poem.
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