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Essay: Chinua Achebe

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
  • Reading time: 4 minutes
  • Price: Free download
  • Published: January 12, 2020*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 947 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)
  • Chinua Achebe
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Before Chinua began writing, Langston Hughes was his mentor. Hughes helped Chinua create numerous books and win great awards such as, The Man Booker International Prize. In Theme for English B, Hughes is discussing what is true for Black and White Americans in his assignment, for his College english class. Hughes is African-American and his professor is White. Hughes finishes his poem by confessing that his professor is “somewhat more free” than him. Achebe is also African, from Nigeria. In his work, Colonialist Criticism, he discusses criticism on African-American texts by non-African-Americans. Achebe believes there is European parochialism.

Reading Colonialist Criticism by Chinua Achebe adds to, as well as enhances, the ability to appreciate, Theme for English B by Langston Hughes. Achebe adds to and enhances Hughes’s writing due to their backgrounds, the issues and topics they stand for, and their style of writing.

Although, Langston Hughes was born in Missouri, and Chinua Achebe was born in Nigeria, they both have strong African-American backgrounds and influences. These backgrounds and influences determine the works these writers produce. This is most prominent in the previously mentioned poems. Both writers were present during the 1900’s and published many famous works. Both writers played parts in the Harlem Renaissance and spoke their minds. They stand for what is right and communicate it through their styles or writing, in poems and novels.

In Theme for English B, Hughes writes a “true” poem for his English professor. In this context, “true” meaning facts and ideas that mean something to you. “True” as in what Hughes stands for and what he feels. In the poem, Hughes makes it clear what the professor expected from his students by stating, “Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you— Then, it will be true. (Lines 2 – 5)” This assignment leads Hughes to contemplate what is true between himself in comparison with his white, male english teacher. Hughes believes that what is true for him, is not true for his english teacher. He wraps up the poem by saying, “I guess you learn from me— although you’re older—and white— and somewhat more free. (Lines 37 – 40)” Hughes is hinting that there is vast differences in their lives, so nothing may be commonly “true” for the both of them. Although the word “true” is never actually spoken in Colonialist Criticism by Chinua Achebe, the same theme is still present. Achebe’s argument consists of the following, there is intense criticism on African-American literature and the criticism is coming from non-africans, which is not right. Achebe argues that all written works by African-Americans have to go through Europeans for analysis. This is because they want to make sure certain criteria is met. This goes side by side with Hughes argument that white people are “somewhat more free.” There is a line between the two races and it is unruly and unfair that there is such differences, especially during the time these pieces were composed. These poems make it clear that there is white supremacy and and the writers are not okay with it. Achebe states, “Does it ever occur to these universities to try out their game of changing names of characters and places in an American novel, say, a Philip Roth or an Updike, and slotting in African names just to see how it works? But of course it would not occur to them. It would never occur to them to doubt the universality of their own literature. In the nature of things the work of a Western writer is automatically informed by universality. It is only others who must strain to achieve it… I should like to see the word `universal’ banned altogether from discussions of African literature until such a time as people cease to use it as a synonym for the narrow, self-serving parochialism of Europe, until their horizon extends to include all the world. (Lines 60-62, 64-65)” For Achebe, like Hughes, he feels that Europeans are more free. This quote delivers the argument that Achebe feels the need to fight for what he stands for and who he is as well as what he feels.

Hughes and Achebe both speak directly from what is on their complex minds. They are very educated beings and wanted the world to be aware of how they felt. In both poems, writers touch on universalism, specifically the American way of life. Hughes makes it known that even though his professor and himself are both American they are vastly different. Same goes for Achebe but instead of the comparison between people he touches on the differences and similarities between American literature written by white or African-American authors. Both writers also have the same style of writing in these two poems. There are no set rhythms or rhymes present. They are simply just writing to clear their feelings. They do not go by any forms or meters. This makes the works more interesting. The poems are “free” and contain many suspenseful actions.

Both these poems, as well as the writers that composed them, Hughes and Achebe, are very much appreciated. Their works go hand-in-hand to argue how they feel and really make readers open up and feel or agree with the aspect that major differences and uncertainties exist that should not be present between Americans. These poems are significant in the time period they were written in and still are today. Langston Hughes and Chinua Achebe were very successful and phenomenal writers. Theme for English B and Colonialist Criticism illustrates what is real and include hints of sarcasm as well as irony. Hughes and Achebe enhance each other’s works of art.

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