Analysis of ‘Still Here’ by Langston Hughes

Still Here

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1st 1902 in Joplin, Missouri and was the second child of Caroline Mercer Langston, a school teacher, and James Nathaniel Hughes. Langston Hughes grew in different towns. Father left the family and later divorced Caroline. His mother travelled seeking employment so he was under the care of his maternal grandmother Mary Langston. It was this lady who instilled the racial pride in Hughes. After his grandmother’s death he lived with their family friends. So his childhood was insecure and not a happy one. He started writing poetry very young. “I was a victim of a stereotype. There were only two of us Negro kids in the whole class and our English teacher was always stressing the importance of rhythm in poetry. Well, everyone knows, except us, that all Negroes have rhythm, so they elected me as class poet.” It was during high school he discovered his love for books. The love for books, the flair for rhythm and the racial pride made him write numerous poems about his people and it went on till his death on May 22nd 1967.

‘Still here’ is a small poem but packed with inspiration. Langston Hughes is an eloquent writer but in this poem he has given the grammar a ‘go’ and it should be understood that this was done with a specific purpose. He is speaking of how ‘battered and ‘scared’ he is. For such a person grammar might not be the top priority or he is too weak to think about grammar and rules. With the use of words and with the style of writing he conveys how beaten he was. His life and grammar has taken a beating in this poem. So he is scared and beaten and all his hopes have been smashed to smithereens. And why will it not? The snow and the sun have showered its extreme temperatures on him. When it was hot, it was really hot so as to bake him; when it was cold it was extremely cold so as to freeze him. The problems he faced in life ranged from one extreme to another and one who goes through all this will be battered and will not have the courage to dream. Even if he does, it will be shattered.

Between the two of them, the snow and the sun, they have tried to make him ‘Stop laughin’, stop lovin’, stop livin’. One who is tossed about in life will not have the time or inclination to laugh or live life to the fullest. And love would be the farthest from their minds as they are so caught up solving one problem after another. What was so different about the speaker of these lines was that in spite of all the problems he was not ready to be cowed down and says ‘But I don’t care!’ and most emphatically states ‘I’m still here!’.

‘Still Here’ is like all Hughes poems which talks about the state of his people but he never accepts defeat or he is not submissive; he fights for his rights. In this poem he says I will stay here. In a small capsule of nine lines he has packed a mammoth sized inspiration.Nine lines are divided into three stanzas. The first stanza has a rhyme scheme of AABB but the other two does not have any rhyme scheme. There is hyperbole in using the sun and the snow to show the extremes in problems. Hughes has pointed out the struggles of life will wear one down. He has showcased this with grammatical errors. However in the end he decides emphatically he would still be there. The beauty of the poem is that the last two lines are written without any errors.  It is important to withstand all problems and overcome obstacles that life may present and keep moving in life.

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