Hughes' Challenge to The American Mirage

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 602 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 602|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024


In the tapestry of American literature, certain stories resonate through time, reflecting the nuanced complexities of race, oppression, and the human condition. "Why You Reckon?" a short narrative penned by the illustrious Langston Hughes, emerges as a profound exploration of these themes. This essay seeks to delve into the intricacies of Hughes' narrative, examining the socio-political commentary embedded within and the narrative technique that Hughes employs to engage the reader in a dialogue on race, poverty, and the illusion of the American Dream.
At the heart of "Why You Reckon?" lies a rich tapestry of themes that Hughes masterfully weaves together, exploring the societal undercurrents of his time. Through the lens of two African American characters who resort to robbing a white man, Hughes embarks on an incisive critique of the economic disparities and racial prejudices pervasive in American society. The narrative, anchored in the dialogue between the protagonists, unfolds a poignant discussion on the motivations behind their actions—hunger and societal exclusion, shedding light on the desperation engendered by systemic oppression.
Hughes' narrative structure serves as a vehicle for this thematic exploration. By adopting the first-person perspective, Hughes immerses the reader in the protagonists' lived reality, allowing for an intimate glimpse into their thoughts and emotions. This narrative choice not only humanizes the characters but also positions the reader to confront the societal conditions that precipitate their actions. Through this structural device, Hughes challenges prevailing stereotypes about African Americans, presenting a narrative that demands empathy and a critical evaluation of societal norms.
"Why You Reckon?" provides a scathing critique of the American Dream—the lofty ideal that promises prosperity and success to all who are willing to work hard for it. Hughes juxtaposes this ideal against the stark reality of his characters, who are entrapped in a cycle of poverty and racial discrimination. This dichotomy serves not only as a critique of the American Dream but also as a commentary on the structural barriers that preclude certain segments of society from attaining it. Through this narrative, Hughes posits that the American Dream, in its idealized form, is a mirage for African Americans, rendered unattainable by the very structure of the society that promotes it.
Moreover, Hughes' story extends its critique to encompass the broader socio-political context of racial prejudice in America. Through the characters' interaction with the white man they rob, and the unexpected empathy he displays towards them, Hughes nuances the racial discourse, suggesting the possibility of solidarity across racial lines. However, this moment of solidarity is fleeting, overshadowed by the harsh reality of the characters' social position. This aspect of the narrative serves as a powerful indictment of the racial and economic divisions that continue to fracture American society.

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Langston Hughes' "Why You Reckon?" stands as a testament to the enduring relevance of literature as a medium for social critique. Through its nuanced exploration of race, poverty, and the illusive nature of the American Dream, Hughes' narrative confronts the reader with the stark inequities that mark the American social landscape. The story, with its rich thematic content and innovative narrative structure, invites a reevaluation of societal norms and the conditions that perpetuate systemic oppression.
In the final analysis, Hughes' work transcends the boundaries of mere storytelling, positioning itself as a seminal contribution to the discourse on race and society in America. "Why You Reckon?" does not merely ask a question but invites the reader into a reflective engagement with the complexities of the human condition, within the context of a society still grappling with the legacies of its past. Hughes’ narrative, thus, resonates beyond its historical moment, speaking to the contemporary moment with equal pertinence and power.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Hughes’ Challenge to the American Mirage. (2024, March 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Hughes’ Challenge to the American Mirage.” GradesFixer, 06 Mar. 2024,
Hughes’ Challenge to the American Mirage. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
Hughes’ Challenge to the American Mirage [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Mar 06 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:
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