Langston Hughes and Claude McKay were popular poets during the Harlem Renaissance period around 1919 to 1933. The two poets share similar viewpoints and poetic achievements making them alike but also different in many ways. The Poets literature flourished during the early twentieth century with much racial tension between blacks and whites. Their poetry expressed the emotions of blacks living in America in poems such as Hughes’s “I Too” and McKay’s “America. ” “I Too” is about the separation of blacks and whites revealing the United States of America as a racially discriminatory society.
Hughes uses the effectiveness of the first person point of view giving the reader a better understanding of the writer’s feelings toward America. His tone is bitter expressing the bitterness towards racial injustice and discrimination of blacks not able to use the same facilities and not having equal rights as whites. The diction has a sense of sarcasm as he awaits his rise in America. Visual imagery plays a part in this poem in lines two through three mentioning his skin color, also being sent to the kitchen as a form of segregation.
The line “I too sing, America” is a symbol of blacks pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States the same as whites do but don’t have the same rights as citizens. There is irony where he proudly eats alone in the kitchen but knows one day he will eat from that table when company comes or when segregation is no more and opportunities present itself. This poem has no rhyme scheme and written in free verse, making the poem flow as a complete thought.
In “America” McKay gives his opposing views on the negative and positive aspects of America and believing that trouble will not last always. Like Hughes he uses first person point of view giving his deepest emotions about America hindering blacks’ progress to be productive citizens at the time. The poem is a sonnet with fourteen lines having an identifiable rhyme scheme throughout the poem. The tone in this poem switches in the first half of the poem from disgust and acceptance to optimism in the second seeing that there is hope for blacks to still rise above oppression.
McKay’s diction is discomforting. Unlike Hughes McKay use a wide variety of figurative language and poetic devices. He uses similes, personification, oxymoron and America is described as a metaphor. Hughes and McKay have some similarities and differences on how America is pictured in their minds. These two poems may have different forms, diction and style but they come to the same meaning and conclusion that America will no longer hinder blacks from prosperity because change is destined to happen.