Composition

Outer composition

The poem “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes has a complex outer composition. The poem is composed of seventeen stanzas that vary in length. The shortest stanzas are the second, fourth, and twelfth stanza, which only have one verse: “(America never was America to me.)” (l. 5), “(It never was America to me.)” (l. 10), and “The free?” (l. 51). The longest stanza, stanza eleven, contains twelve verses.

The rhyme scheme is irregular, as there is no specific rhyme scheme for the entire poem. The first, third, and fifth stanzas generally follow an ABAB rhyme scheme, as in the following example, where “again” rhymes with “plain” and “be” rhymes with “free”:

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free. (ll. 1-4)

In the rest of the poem, the rhyme scheme is generally inconsistent, with verses only occasionally rhyming with each other. 

Some of the sentences of the poem run across two or more verses, in a technique called enjambment, as observed in verses 25-27:

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! (ll. 25-27)

Some of the verses are written in parentheses: “(America never was America to me.)” (l. 5), “(There’s never been equality for me/Nor freedom in this ‘homeland of the free.’)” (ll. 15-16). In this case, the verses written in parentheses highlight the speaker’s belief that America has not felt like a home to him. 

Other verses are written in italics, like the ones in the following example: “Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?/ And who are you...

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