The American Dream has been the campaign strategy of virtually every aspiring candidate to White House. Promises of restoring it are echoed in every opportunity that is availed to the aspirants. America has long been termed as a land of the free for centuries, a credit that goes to its founding fathers, the dreamers of the much talked of dream. One wonders where did, in the words of the African writer Chinua Achebe,' the rain start beating them' so as to warrant a restoration of their earlier course. In a complicated poem written by Langston Hughes, the reader meets the experiences of an American who has mixed feelings of the American vision and its reality upon his life. Such feelings lead to a double perspective of the once thought realized dream to many but still away from realization to others like the poet as discussed in this popular poem.
Langston connotatively paints a wonderful patriotic image of America from the onset. It is such images, which seem almost illusions that make the reader question their fulfillment. Was America a "dream" for everyone or was it for the few? This dilemma is answered in the lines that put it clear that "there has never been equality for me". 'Me' in this case represent the poet and all of his socioeconomic status. Complaints of the poet being ''the poor white, fooled and pushed apart'' and of " the Negro bearing slavery's scars'' also serve to complicate the feelings of the American vision once thought to bring freedom to all by arousing passion in the reader.
In a confessional tone, Langston narrates his experience in America and highlights all the shortcomings of the American vision of freedom and equality for all. This is evident in his outright lines that invoke a resentful feeling towards America for not being equal to every one and thus not living up to its worldwide reputation. Through out the entire poem, the poet has made use of rhetorical questions that make the reader to give a second thought to the image they have for America and what the reality is as presented by the poem. Questions like "The free? Who said?" make one to doubt of America's notion of freedom and what it really entails. Hughes immediately responds that he is not one among those who still hold the fantasy of a free America by refusing in, "Not me".
One outstanding characteristic of this poem is how it has used anaphora repeatedly. Such repetition and parallel structure give time to the reader to critically think about the sentiments of each repeated line. For instance, the phrase "let it be" has been used severally and makes one aware that America is not what it was supposed to be (Moore 3). Emphatically, Hughes also repeats, "America never was America to me". As if in an effort what America has been to him, Hughes records vividly through the anaphora of "I am the" and goes ahead to enumerate all the people who have not benefited from the American Dream.
Though Hughes wrote this poem during the Great Depression, his disillusionment of what America has become is very rife the modern America. Little has changed since his time (Arden 1). Racism is still prevalent, materialism and greed is the order of the day, the poor are still neglected and those who are rich run the world. Hughes' dream of America a century ago has still not fruited up to date and thus the biggest challenge that America is to live up to the expectations she set from the beginning.
The effect that the phrase "O, let America be again" cannot be down played. The ironical bit of it is that the poet urges America to go back to a state she has never been. This leaves the reader with the implication that America's vision of equality and freedom was only a conception that was never born. The dreamers of this big vision who also wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had excellent ideas for the American in the future that apparently were never realized.
Hughes' emphasis of "Let America be America again" is a call for America to go back to the good old way predestined for instead of its current disposition. Whether this is really happening or not is a question open to all and sundry. The reality is that despite Hughes's earlier optimism of a change of events in the course of time, the same ordeals he empathetically elaborated still persist. The poor get poorer, the rich become richer and those oppressed remain in repression. After putting himself in the shoes of the nation's founding father and the dreams they had for America, the poet rhetorically questions the freedom they dreamt of and its relevance in the America of his time as well as of the modern time.
The reality of two parallel dreams with the American people dawns to the reader at the end of the poem. One is the genuine dream conceived by the founding fathers of the nation while the other is consists of a patriotic image portrayed by the government in an attempt to divert the masses from its own failures. In a country that practices racism indoors, one can understand Hughes in his remarks of being sick with "finding only the same stupid plan/Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak" (Davidson 3). Just is the case with 'I, too, am American', Hughes' hope and plea of equality as witnessed in the repetition of this phrase has not found a place in today's America and probably will not if nothing happens soon to change the state of affairs.