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"As I Grew Older" by Langston Hughes: Poem Analysis Project

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Sabrina Khan

on 25 October 2014

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Transcript of "As I Grew Older" by Langston Hughes: Poem Analysis Project

"As I Grew Older"
By: Langston Hughes

The speaker describes the wall as an obstacle to achieving his dreams, which we find out is to become a freedman, In a dejected and listless tone he says, "The wall/ Shadow/ I am black". The wall also represents injustice and discrimination against African Americans due to white supremacy. It shows this when he talks about his skin color, "I am black", and the shadow is over him when he stands by the wall also showing his skin color. The shadow is also representing the life he has had to live because of his skin color, and his dream of becoming a freedman is know blocked by the wall, this wall of sadness and despair. This is also straightforward symbolism-the speaker represents all African Americans who had to relinquish their dreams due to racial discrimination against them before.
"As I Grew Older
"As I Grew Older"
This poem is like a story where the speaker starts off by telling us about a dream he used to have. In the start of the poem he describes himself as an ignorant child having a dream as "bright like the sun...And then the wall rose...Between me and my dream". As a child he had a mindset that anything in the world is achievable. He describes this in the metaphor of this dream being "bright like the sun", Later on in life there comes a point where he grows up and more responsibilities come and he realizes there are limitations and obstacles that he has to overcome, Hughes describes this in a apathetic tone "And then the wall rose... between me and my dream". In life there sometimes comes an obstacle, which is almost impossible to overcome , and blocks us from the things that really matter like dreams.
By: Sabrina Khan,
Bijoux Bohon,
& Serena Tan-Torres
"As I Grew Older" by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!
"As I Grew Older"
The tone of the speaker goes from guilt suddenly to broken and sorrowful when he describes how he, "lie down in the shadow/no longer the light of my dream before me...only the thick wall/only the shadow". Since he realizes he can no longer reach his dream, he symbolizes how he, "lie down in the shadow", he cannot see the light and happiness anymore. Young African American children might have experienced a few years of blissful ignorance but slowly must have realized their positions as slaves and lower class citizens, which then must have rose up a wall of insecurities, injustice, and shards of broken dreams and wishes, blocking out the only light they knew. This doesn't mean that his dream is gone, is just means that he can't see it anymore because it has been blocked by the wall. He can only see a little shadow of the dream on the other side waiting to be found again.
"As I Grew Older"
"As I Grew Older"
After some time the speaker tone being sorrowful we suddenly see dramatic shift to a tone full of determination and vigor, when he excitedly exclaims, "My hands!/My dark hands!/Break through the wall". The speaker forcefully commands his "dark hands" to "break through the wall" of injustice so that he can finally achieve his dream. He doesn't care about what anyone thinks anymore he just wants to be free and independent and to have choices of becoming what he wants to be instead of someone telling him what to do and what to be. His "dark hands" shows us that he is and African American.
The speaker's tone suddenly becomes even more committed and energetic when he says, "Help me to shatter this darkness/To smash this night". The speaker uses violent language such as "shatter" and "smash" to show how strongly he feels about this matter. He is asking his hand, actually commanding his hands to help him and his courage and strength to break through the wall to get to the other side where his dreams lie awaiting his return.
"As I Grew Older"
The speaker is now finally content and calm with satisfaction of what he has done, and imagines the wall and the shadow finally breaking because he wants, "To break this shadow/Into a thousand lights of sun/Into a thousand whirling dreams/Of sun!". The "night" or the wall, has all the dreams he had built up piling on top of one another building that wall. Now finally he was able to break it and all of his wishes were all finally free to be fulfilled. His dream came raining down on him like specks of light "Of sun", and pieces of dreams all African Americans had during that time. Hughes uses the violent tone in "break", to show how the speaker was suddenly empowered to stand up for what was right, not only for him but all of his brothers and sisters that were also being blocked by the wall of injustice. By confronting this obstacle the speaker has finally found his voice and purpose in life, which is to help stop discrimination, and even though he knows that he might not be able to fully break it he willing to try to for the sake of himself. his family, and for the good of his people.
Overall Theme Of the Poem
The overall them of this poem is the injustice of racial discrimination and how because of the speaker's skin color it became the thing to block out his dream. As a child he was ignorant of his skin color and he saw the world around him as a place for opportunity, which was true but back then not true for African Americans. As he grew he saw that racism was the thing that separated him and people from the rest of the world. He wants the strength to break through the metaphoric wall he has made up in his mind. This poem tells us not to be racist because every single person in the world has enough potential to become whatever they wish to be as they grow older.
Full transcript