The Ways of White Folks Analysis Example

The collection of short stories in, The Ways of White Folks published by Langston Hughes depicts the deepest feelings of resistance and frustration from blacks towards the white-American society. Each of the short stories is linked together and the purpose of the plot develops cumulatively. Hughes does a really good job conveying the emotions as well as the treatment of characters in different regions of the United States and Europe. In a way, Hughes shows the different possibilities blacks had in America compared to Europe. Throughout each story, Hughes hints at understanding the ways of the white people.

Hughes portrays the treatment of blacks in America versus Europe. Clearly, this comparison is seen in the short story “Poor Little Black Fellow.” In this story, Hughes writes about a rich white family who adopts their black servant's son after she passes, and the struggles the black boy faces. The white family raises the boy as their own, sticking out like a sore thumb the boy contrasts the family. Arnie was the only black kid in the whole town. Hughes writes that the town of Mapleton fully accepted this black boy, “One would think that nobody in the town need ever again do a good deed: that this acceptance of a black boy was quite enough.”(137). The white town found it to be a Christian duty to raise Arnie like a proper person. The society in the town was focused on their own feelings. The whole town would treat him as if he were their own, they would be unnecessarily nice to him, but in reality, they all pitied him. The town pitied Arnie because he was a black boy with no parents, so the social mentality in Mapleton was to help the poor boy.

Later on in the story, the Pembertons decide it would be nice to take Arnie on a trip to Europe their last summer with him. The moment they try to board the steamship in America, they run into some trouble with Arnie’s color. In contrast, when they arrive in Paris the mood towards the black men and women is vastly different from his hometown. The Pembertons decide to stay in one of the best hotels, and so happened that Claudia Lawrence was staying there as well! Claudia Lawrence is a black female performer from Atlanta, Georgia and the Pembertons had a liking for her. Hughes writes that “A lot of Negroes, men and women, shiny and well-dressed, with good and sophisticated manners, came at all hours to see Claudia”(144).

Compared to Mapleton, a white-American town with no black families, Paris is full of sophisticated black men and women. Regardless, Europe has already shown to be years ahead of inequality, simply from the fact that Claudia, a black woman is staying at one of the best hotels in Paris. If we relate this back to America, it is obvious that racism is far worst and in reality, Claudia would’ve most likely not been offered the same hotel room as a white performer. This really messes with Arnie, due to the fact he had never seen such sophisticated black men and women, compared to being the only black kid in the whole town of Mapleton, back in America.

Throughout the collection written by Hughes, the title of each piece is significant. Reading through the short stories, one can analyze the title in various ways. The contextual meaning behind the title of the short story “Poor Little Black Fellow,” relates to the injustices Arnie faces in America versus Europe, he is treated as a poor little fellow in America. Yet, on the contrary, Paris does not discriminate. The black men and women of Europe were allowed more possibilities, and it becomes no surprise that Arnie doesn’t want to go back to America.

In conclusion, the collection of short stories written by Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folks, depicts social problems in America post-emancipation. The free African-Americans faced a lot of social problems, as seen in the short-story “Poor Little Black Fellow,” Arnie is trapped in a similar situation. Hughes uses this short story to point out the differences in the treatment of black men and women in America compared to the freedom and equality offered overseas for the colored.



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