This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Merry-Go-Round” by Langston Hughes. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Presentation of the poem

Title: “Merry-Go-Round” (1942)
Author: Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was an American poet, writer, and columnist. His poetry mainly explored the experience of black people in America. This is also shown in the poem “Merry-Go-Round”, which was published in the collection called Shakespeare in Harlem.


The poem “Merry-Go-Round” introduces a young black speaker who asks where the section for black people is on a merry-go-round. The speaker comes from the Southern United States, where black people are still segregated from the whites and where means of public transportation have special sections for black people, usually in the back. The speaker notices that a merry-go-round has no back section, as it is round, and asks whether there is a horse that black children can ride on.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 


The merry-go-round might be interpreted in different ways. First, because of its shape, the merry-go-round symbolizes the impracticality and absurdity of racial segregation, which cannot be enforced in this situation. Because of this, the merry-go-round might also represent racial equality. Secondly, a more pessimistic interpretation suggests that the merry-go-round symbolizes the never-ending nature of racism and prejudice in the US...

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