Friday, July 13, 2012

cross and ballad of the landlord

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Langston Hughes is considered one of the leading voices in the Harlem Renaissance (“Langston Huges”). He wrote many poems. Hughes had a strong sense of racial pride (“Writers and Artist Langston Hughes”). Hughes writes about black society and the hardships they went through. These views were supported in two of his poems, “Cross,” and “Ballad of the Landlord.” Formalistically speaking the poem, “Cross,” lets the reader imagine or decide what the poem symbolizes or what the words mean. Sociologically in the poem, “Ballad of the Landlord,” I can see an attempt by Hughes to demonstrate the problem of segregation around the 10s.

I think the title, “Cross” suggests the burden the narrator holds with being of mixed race. For example, Christ holding the burden of dying for our sins on the cross, compared to the narrator holding a burden of being mixed. The title comes from the last line, “I wonder where I’m gonna die, Being neither white nor black.” The word cross is never used in the actual poem, which leaves the reader to decide the purpose for the title. For example, the title leaves the narrator up to his/her own imagination( Taylor ).

The poem consists of the narrator apologizing for cursing his mother and father. Then he goes on to say that his Dad died well off and his mother died poor. This means they were not married and he didn’t grow up in a conventional setting. Also the narrator tells the reader his mother is white and his father is black. Concluding from the time the poem was written, I think the father was a slave owner and the mother was one of his slaves. I conclude that the father may have raped the mother.

Since the speaker is neither white nor black, he finds himself confused at the end of the poem by saying, “I wonder where I’m gonna die.” He mentions his mom died in a shack and his father died in big house. The speaker thinks since his father is white he got to die in the nice house and since his mother is black she had to die in a shack. However, he is neither, which makes him confused about his destiny. Or maybe the question is, how will he be treated, as a white or black? For example, the mother may have been beat because of her color and lack of power. Hughes emphasizes African culture and the belief of renewal should come from an understanding of African roots (“Langston Hughes”).

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“Ballad of the Landlord,” emphasizes the way Langston Hughes sees the relationships between blacks and whites (Taylor, 1). Hughes moved around a lot, from home to home and around the world. After Hughes travels the world, he received his bachelor’s degree, and was considered poet of the generation. His work dealt with the continuing fight for equality. For example, “Ballad of the Land Lords,” talks about hardships and injustices of black life in a racist society (Taylor, 1-).

This poem was also written during the 140s, which explains the uncomfortable social separation of blacks and whites and also the social separation between the wealthy and poor. Whites had more power at this time. It was a time when society could not write in other than segregation (Issues of Race in the 10s, 1). The poem mentions the blacks having to rent from the whites, which resembles the poorness of blacks at that time. Then the landlord easily had the black man thrown in jail for complaining. Of course the black man had no power or say once that police got there. This is an example of the wealth and power in a white man in the 140s.

Hughes writes about the social disrespect towards blacks in the 140s. The landlord of the poem was very disrespectful towards his tenant. Hughes symbolizes his views of the treatments of blacks through writing, “Ballad of the Landlord.” Blacks were forced to stick up for themselves. For example, the black man in the poem says, “………Well, that’s Ten Bucks more’n I’ll pay you, Till you fix this house up new.” However no matter the situation, most the time blacks had no power, which was proven in the conclusion, with the black man going to jail.

The poem, “ Cross” and “Ballad of the Landlord,” both experience the racial actions, and segregation. The poems leave the reader to decide the underlining meaning. “Cross” makes the readers use his/her imagination to what will happen next and “Ballad of the Landlord” leaves the reader wondering what the underlying meaning should be. The poems were written around the same time period, which is one reason for part of the themes to be about the separation of blacks and whites and the difference in power of the each race holds.

The differences of the two poems are the approach to the underlying meaning and the type of story. In the poem, “Cross,” Hughes describes characters, and then leaves the reader to decide the answer or ending to the narrator’s life. The poem also emphasizes the importance of a background of a person than problems of segregation. In “Ballad of the Landlord,” Hughes tells a short story. He explains a tenant’s frustration to a drunk and disrespectful landlord. Though the tenant happens to be black and ends up in jail. This poem emphasizes more of the social problem of segregation and power.

I believe Hughes really wants to describe the racism problem of his time or life. I think Hughes explained more broadly the issue of race in his poem, “Ballad of the Landlord.” The poem left me with anger and frustration inside, like I was the black man. I felt as though I could continue the power of equality. However, in the poem, “Cross,” I was confused on what exactly Hughes was trying to describe, though the question also left me wondering about the possibilities. “Cross” imposed a little more imagination of the reader, which can be difficult for the reader.

Hughes promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality in his poems (“Writers and Artists Langston Hughes”). Formalistically and sociologically the poems, “Cross” and “Ballad of the Landlords,” helped promote the view of relationships and racism. Hughes lived in racism and disrespect and wrote about the issue.

Works Cited

Issues of Race in the 10s. 1 November 00. http//


Langston Hughes (10-167). 7 October 00. http//www.kirjasto.sci.


Taylor, Bethany. Langston HughesBiography. 7 October 00. http//

Writers and Artists Langston Hughes. 7 October 00. http//www.

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