Langston Hughes’ “I too” and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”

Literary Analysis of Poetry


Langston Hughes’ “I too” and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”

Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” inspired Langston Hughes to write “I too,” which is a literary response. Whitman claims to be able to hear the “varied songs” and “singing” of everyday Americans, but Langston Hughes, who was born 10 years after Whitman’s death and raised his voice, makes it seem as though Whitman missed this unique voice when he penned his poem “I Hear America Singing.” Despite the fact that both poems are about America, their diverse techniques result in two distinct voices. Both poems are about hearing voices; however, Whitman’s poem is about voices being heard, and Hughes’ poem is about voices being raised so that one can hear and respond to the silenced voices of the black community in America that are challenging American identity.

Comparative Analysis

Whitman’s poetry is based on everyday occurrences, whereas Hughes’ poem deals with personal experience. In Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” for instance, the poet hears the voices of the common Americans, including “the boatman,” “the wood-cutter,” “the shoe-maker,” and even women (Hollander, 2004). Whitman also asserts that “each singing” is distinct and exclusively belongs to the people, a perfect representation of America in all its splendour as a song. On the other hand, the phrase “I too” or “I too, sing America,” which is a direct homage to Whitman’s poem, implies that the idealised depiction of Americans is terrible and racist.  While Hughes sings the song of the humiliation and disappointment he experiences from his fellow white brothers, Whitman hears America singing “the lovely tunes” of joy and happiness. Thus, Whitman hears melodies and Hughes sings grating; one hears melodies and the other sings grating as well as the hope for a brighter future; despite this humiliation, the speaker laughs, eats, and is growing stronger.

Langston Hughes’ “I too” and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”

Whitman’s poem highlights the working class’ everyday routine and sees it with joy and gladness as they are “singing with open mouths their loud melodic songs,” in contrast to Hughes’ poem, which discusses the socioeconomic disparity.

Langston Hughes’ “I too” and Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing”

Although neither poem follows rhyme, rhythm, or metre, both authors are treated significantly differently despite the fact that they are both written in free verse. Whitman, for instance, is credited with being the creator of free-verse, a literary style that deviates from the usual guidelines of rhyme, rhythm, and metre. Nevertheless. The rhythm is kept up by alliteration and repetition, and the verses have rhyme and meter. Whitman’s poem doesn’t have a set rhyme scheme, but repetition and rhythm are still present, as the following verse suggests:


As we’ve seen in the preceding paragraphs, “I hear America Singing” and “I too, Am American” have many things in common as well as distinct variances in terms of structure and ideas. Whitman and Hughes are engaged in literary oedipal struggle because, as we’ve seen, Hughes pushed his literary father to fill a void. However, I think that both poems are about the common and the excluded. Hughes aspires to be a part of Whitman’s America, the big America that cherishes liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness for all. Whitman loves the lives of ordinary Americans and sees them as America.


    You get full access to this sample paper