As I Grew Older – Langston Hughs Essay

Are all men really created equal? The speaker in the poem “As I Grew Older” written by Langston Hughes certainly doesn’t think so. As the title suggests, the speaker was still growing and learning, so he couldn’t have been a wise man, though he still could be from a child to an adult. The poem’s title not only suggested the age of the speaker, but also clarified the meaning of the poem. I think that the speaker was sharing what he understood as he grew older: He understood that you have to learn to accept how things are, not just what’s in your dream.

He understood that reality will never be as perfect as a dream. He also understood that you need to have a dream to hang on to, even if you don’t have much hope left. When I read:

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No Longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.

Only the Shadow. (1.16-19)

I can almost feel the mixture of longing, frustration, and the determination the speaker was experiencing. Everything was so blurry to him, like walking blindly in a fog, he didn’t know which path to follow, but he was still trying extremely hard to clear his mind and escape the shadow and darkness to his bright tomorrow. In this poem, the poet used a variety of sound devices and figurative language. He writes, “Bright like a sun–/ My dream” (1.5-6) to create an image of the freedom he was looking for, which is also an example of comparing unlike things using “like” or “as”—a simile. Hughes kept using “sun”, “dream”, and “wall” to emphasize the message over and over again. By using repetition, the image he wanted to create is even more vivid: He wanted to find the sun, which represents the freedom he was seeking for, but was blocked by the wall–the reality that created the darkness and the shadow. I came upon “As I Grew Older” by accident while I was browsing through some of Hughes’ poems.

But once I set my eyes on it, I found that I share a similar experience the speaker was going through and thought that a lot of people should understand the worldwide message it’s trying to spread. “As I Grew Older” reminded me of how I felt while I was a new student. The wall of me being a new face on campus blocking me from making friends and participating in activities- the bright warm sun I was searching for at the time. Overall, I believe that this poem is trying to say that all men are equal within. It doesn’t matter what their size, looks, or religions are. So why do we keep focusing on differences? Maybe we could be like the speaker, only dwelling upon our dream, flow into our bright future, where our heart becomes one, and maybe we could even have the same dream, not just for the sake of ourselves, but for the sake of the world: To smash this night.

To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun! (1.25-30)

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