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“Dream Boogie” by Langston Hughes Critique


Going back to my elementary school years, I have always enjoyed Langston Hughes’ work.  “Dream Boogie” has always been one of my favorites.  I interpret the poem to be about two friends, one of which is expressing to the other the ills of society while the other is questioning if he truly is happy or is putting on a facade to hide his pain.

The poem is told in a scat format.  Scat music was a form of jazz that was popular during the Harlem Renaissance.  It is typically deemed as uplifting and fun.  The usage of the word “daddy” was a term of endearment to a friend.  For the narrator to be speaking in scat while talking about the societal ills of African-Americans (poverty, racism, deferred dreams, etc.) it personifies the inner battles that he (and many others like him) were going through.  His friend could not comprehend how he could be putting on a facade that he is happy when he cannot fathom that one could be when dealing with such oppression.  The narrator goes to great lengths to ignore him, which his friend points out in lines like “What did I say?”.

African-Americans throughout history have had to take oppression with a smile on there face since happy blacks were the only ones remotely accepted by mainstream American.  The narrator is using the forum of jazz (entertainment) since this is the only way that his voice is heard by the masses.  Since whites would only listen to African-American expression in whites-only venues like Harlem’s Cotton Club,it would be fitting for one to speak of their issues in this manner to speak out (while still being entertaining).  Hughes speaks to this conundrum with this piece with a sense of elegance only he could describe.


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