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Langston Hughes

’ Semple Essay, Research Paper Holli A. RamseyRamsey1 Lit 345 February 24, 1997 Langston Hughes is represented in Black Voices by the Tales of Simple. Hughes

’ Semple Essay, Research Paper

Holli A. RamseyRamsey1

Lit 345

February 24, 1997

Langston Hughes is represented in Black Voices by the Tales of Simple. Hughes

first presents his character Jessie B. Semple in the Forward: Who is Simple? In this tale

the reader is given its first look at the character Jessie B. Semple who is a black man that

represents almost the “anybody or everybody” of black society. Semple is a man who

needs to drink, to num 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. Semple, also known as Simple, has just the right combination of qualities

to be Black America’s new spokesman and unsung hero. Semple seems to possess just

enough urban humor and cynicism, down-home simplicity, naivete, and “boy-next-door

innocence” that Semple easily becomes a character that hard-working, average, everyday

people can relate to. He quickly becomes this sort of Black Everyman 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 a 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 Semple 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 Semple 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 Semple, 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),

Semple who is from the urban ghetto is himself free of the problems that plague many

ghetto dwellers during this time. Semple is a man who avoids the inhibititions of welfare,

crime, and drugs which is something that many of his neighbors do not do, yet in no way

is Semple 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. Semple is Hughes’ approach at a

comical view. Through his character, Semple, 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. Semple,

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 intrans 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. Semple 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.

Ramsey 4

Chapman, Abraham. Black Voices: An Anthology of Afro-American Literature, Signet,

New York, 1968

Holli A. RamseyRamsey1

Lit 345

February 24, 1997

Langston Hughes is represented in Black Voices by the Tales of Simple. Hughes

first presents his character Jessie B. Semple in the Forward: Who is Simple? In this tale

the reader is given its first look at the character Jessie B. Semple who is a black man that

represents almost the “anybody or everybody” of black society. Semple is a man who

needs to drink, to num 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. Semple, also known as Simple, has just the right combination of qualities

to be Black America’s new spokesman and unsung hero. Semple seems to possess just

enough urban humor and cynicism, down-home simplicity, naivete, and “boy-next-door

innocence” that Semple easily becomes a character that hard-working, average, everyday

people can relate to. He quickly becomes this sort of Black Everyman 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 a 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 Semple 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 Semple 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 Semple, 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),

Semple who is from the urban ghetto is himself free of the problems that plague many

ghetto dwellers during this time. Semple is a man who avoids the inhibititions of welfare,

crime, and drugs which is something that many of his neighbors do not do, yet in no way

is Semple 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. Semple is Hughes’ approach at a

comical view. Through his character, Semple, 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. Semple,

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 intrans 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. Semple 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.

Ramsey 4

Works Cited

Chapman, Abraham. Black Voices: An Anthology of Afro-American Literature, Signet,

New York, 1968

Holli A. RamseyRamsey1

Lit 345

February 24, 1997

Langston Hughes is represented in Black Voices by the Tales of Simple. Hughes

first presents his character Jessie B. Semple in the Forward: Who is Simple? In this tale

the reader is given its first look at the character Jessie B. Semple who is a black man that

represents almost the “anybody or everybody” of black society. Semple is a ma

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