A biographical or historical approach attempt to measure how much an author’s life or history has influenced their writings. Most of the time, writings are strengthened when the author writes from a biographical or historical angle, and the importance of their history becomes significant when it is used to create characters that express it’s values and examines trends that occur in that time period.
When using a biographical or historical approach to an author and his work, it is important that the critic is familiar with the circumstances that the author writes about. The critic must explain whether or not the author’s events or circumstances are similar to the events in their writing. Furthermore, the critic must determine if the author has other writings similar in style or theme to the writing they are analyzing and are there specific events or customs described or identified? Also, the critic must determine whether or not there is an ironic or satirical tone distinctive when historical references are made, and is the tone patriotic?
Finally, in a biographical or historical approach, the critic must decide if the author gave a lot of attention to making the writing realistic (Clugston, 2010). Langston Hughes was born to a black mother and a white father, but he spent most of his childhood in a black community in Kansas with his maternal grandmother during the time that America was segregated. In his young adulthood, he moved to Harlem, New York, which was another black neighborhood that suffered from white racial oppression (Tracy, 2004).
Therefore, not only did he see the injustice of his neighbors and his community, but he also lived it. He wanted to become a writer, and his life as he knew it is what inspired his writings. Langston Hughes stated that most of his poems are racial in theme and treatment (Clugston, 2010). His writing style that he used was very creative in presenting the situations of his era. Hughes’ writing was his response to the racial prejudices of his time and era (Scott, 2006).
Langston Hughes embraced his surroundings and adopted the haracteristics from his culture, and with his unique style, tone, and use of symbols, he used his writings as a plan to identify and overcome the injustices of the African American people in Harlem during the Civil Rights Movement. Langston Hughes’ short poem, “Dream Boogie captured my attention because of the style in which it was written and honestly, because of the author. The use of his words and the style of his writing, also known as the tone of this short poem give the reader insight into the dialect of African Americans in Harlem during Hughes’ era.
Their language, which was considered slang, was informal and contained made-up words and used common words in abnormal ways. For example, Hughes used words such as “aint” and “boogie-woogie,” which was a term that was used in Harlem to refer to the blues. The tone was set on the style of be-bop, which is slang for jazz music. This is music that is improvised or made-up and put together along the way and originated in Harlem (Dictionary, 2005). Langston Hughes stated that jazz music to him is one of the deep-rooted styles of expression of the Negro life in America (Clugston, 2010).
The rhythm in “Dream Boogie” is altered and does not have a continuous repeated pattern (Kate, 53). Through his imagination, Hughes designed this poem to reflect the mood and attitude of be-bop, and his unclearness or ambiguity leaves the reader with a lot of room to imagine or fill in the blanks. Honestly, “Dream Boogie” is a hard poem to analyze when it stands alone. It is a short poem that comes from Montage of a Dream Deferred, which is an entire collection of poems that was made into a book and tells a story.
Therefore, the entire book must be read and understood in order to gain an understanding of “Dream Boogie. ” Throughout the book, Hughes makes reference to a “dream deferred. ” It is important to know that this “dream deferred” symbolizes Harlem (Tracy, 2004). Langston Hughes pictured Harlem as a beautiful community that could possibly overcome injustice at one point in his life; however, he began to see it as a hopeless slum. He felt like the citizens had given up on the struggle to be treated equal and become a part of the American dream.
Montage of a Dream Deferred gives insight of life in Harlem (Tracy, 2004). It asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred? ” “Dream Boogie” is the answer to that question. It gives a sarcastic reply. For example, a child speaks to his father and asks him the question, “Aint you heard, the boogie-woogie rumble of a dream deferred. ” I interpreted this to mean that the dream of being desegregated and being treated equal was just a thought in the minds of the oppressed, but they have delayed taking any actions to make it come true.
Therefore, until they stop just thinking about it in their heads and start taking steps, then they will remain in the same situation. Furthermore, the child appears to be happy and the father is puzzled as to why the child is overjoyed by this. For example, the father asks the child if he thinks the beats that he hears are happy ones, and the child responds by saying, “sure I’m happy. ” I think that the child feels like he/she is supposed to be happy because it appears to him/her that everyone else is content and not too concerned about making any changes.
Langston Hughes gives a lot of attention to making the poem realistic. This is because he uses a conversation between a father and child to show that the community has given up on their dream. I think it makes a powerful statement because if a child has the ability to see that people have given up and become content with their current situation, then surely the adults know in their hearts and minds what they should be doing in order for their dreams to come true. The tone displays sarcasm because the child should be disappointed, but he is not.
Hughes feels like there was no dedication to the thought of a desegregated and equal America. Not only does “Dream Boogie” sarcastically approaches the lack of dedication of African Americans during this time period, but the entire book, Montage of a Dream Deferred, uses the same style, tone, and use of symbols to present the same ideas. The title says it all. The meaning of Montage of a Dream Deferred is translated to mean: a collection of delayed dreams. It is hard to find a lot of written information about Langston Hughes other than copies of his actual poems.
His literary work was not really published until almost ten years after his death (Scott, 2006). Personally, I feel like this is because of how intense his writings were and because how they were so to the point concerning racial inequality. I think that people felt like Langston Hughes’ dreams had been accomplished and rather than dwelling on the injustices, Americans needed to just move beyond it and live together in a new America of equality.