Essay/Term paper: Tales of simple
Essay, term paper, research paper: English Papers
Langston Hughes is represented in Black Voices by the Tales of Simple. Hughes
first presents his character Jessie B. Simple in the Forward: Who is Simple? In this tale the reader is given its first look at the character Jessie B. Simple who is a black man that represents almost the "anybody or everybody" of black society. Simple is a man who needs to drink, to numb the pain of living life. "Usually over a glass of beer, he tells me his tales... with a pain in his soul... sometimes as the old blues says... Simple might be laughing to keep from crying" (98, 99).
Jessie B. Simple, also known as Simple, has just the right combination of qualities
to be Black America's new spokesman and unsung hero. Simple seems to possess just
enough urban humor and cynicism, down-home simplicity, naivete, and "boy-next-door innocence" that Simple easily becomes a character that hard-working, average, everyday people can relate to. He quickly becomes this sort of Black Every man whose bunions hurt all the time and whose thoughts are relatively quite simple, yet he is a man who rises above these facts and has a perception that shows the man to have great wisdom and incredible insight. And although he maintains seriousness for all his wisdom to come through; his presentation of the facts is given in a humorous manner. In Bop, "That's why so many white folks do not get their heads beat just for being white. But me --- a cop is liable to grab me almost anytime and beat my head- just for being colored " (105). This side to Simple is an example of Hughes attempt to give simple facts or actual truth but instead of telling these things harshly and angrily he tries to sweeten them with a little sarcastic humor. At times, Simple is full of pain. "I have had so many hardships in this life," said Simple, "that it is a wonder I'll live until I die" (105). This comment by Simple is one of Ramsey 2
many that help portray him as a simple man who has been both mentally and physically broken-down by society but who in Census also says that, in spite of all the hardships he has experienced, he is still here. Hughes, by using Simple, shows his discontent of the black man's world, yet in showing these feelings Hughes never portrays himself to be angry, overcome by fear, or overwhelmed by racial paranoia. During these desperate and hard years (post-war years), Simple who is from the urban ghetto is himself free of the problems that plague many ghetto dwellers during this time. Simple is a man who avoids the inhibitions of welfare, crime, and drugs which is something that many of his neighbors do not do, yet in no way is Simple ever shown to possess the intelligence of a genius, not even for his seemingly
flawless character. Hughes' character is a simple man who is never shown to have
complete misery while at the same time he also never has the greatest life either. Rather, he symbolizes an innocent comical view of both black and white America, which is the basis of Hughes' perspective of the Black man's existence.
During Hughes' career as a man of great literature, Hughes wrote of a life of
frustrations and dreams deferred and of being a minstrel man who laughs to hide his pain, but what is seen through Hughes' character Jessie B. Simple is Hughes' approach at a comical view. Through his character, Simple, Hughes shows that even with the complexities of modern urban living that simplicity will prevail with simple men who provide simple truths backed by simple answers. For this reason the Simple stories were written for his own people because until this time most of Hughes' work had been written for the white readers of the time. However, with his new character Jessie B. Simple, Hughes returned to his own people rather than reaching out to the white readers as he had been doing before. In conclusion, his character held the manners, talk, and dreams that were in reality the major concerns of Hughes' imagination. For Hughes the ghetto was more than a place Ramsey 3
to live and write rather it was a place that held his interest with all that it had to offer:
from the people that lived there to the individual personality that the place held for itself.
Regardless of what was thought to interns Hughes into dwelling in such a place, he was not consumed by merely its name alone (Harlem) moreover it was the people and
atmosphere that most struck Hughes and pulled him into this place. Here he became a
voice that spoke what many saw; yet they failed to speak because of the racial tensions of the time. Overall then, his character Jessie B. Simple was merely an extension of a voice for all those who failed to speak up when they most needed to but couldn't afford to because of the times.
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