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     Volume 1 Issue 9 | November 11, 2006 |


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Seeing Double

Langston Hughes

The most influential Black American writer in the history of American literature, Langston Hughes, became in the latter half of the 20th century, one of the dominant voices speaking out for black culture in white America. “My writing”, Hughes once said, “has been largely concerned with the depicting of Negro life in America.” Hughes published ten volumes of poetry, nine books of fiction, nine plays, two autobiographies, several biographies and histories and a large amount of journalistic writings. In fact, much of his best writing was journalistic. His most popular works were newspaper sketches written for the Chicago Defender in the 1940s. The sketches recounted the adventures and opinions of an innocent, downtrodden and street-wise Negro, Simple , whose musings on contemporary affairs war, racism, feminism, poverty, cities and so on provided Hughes with the means for making broad satirical and critical commentary on society and government. The inimitable folksy humour of Langston Hughes still delights million of readers across the world.

"I wonder why it is we have two of one thing, and only one of others."
"For instance?"
"We have two lungs," said Simple, "but only one heart. Two eyes, but only one mouth. Two-"
"Feet, but only one body," I said.

"I was not going to say feet," said Simple. "But since you have taken the words out of my mouth, go ahead."
"Human beings have two shoulders but only one neck."
"And two ears but only one head," said Simple.
"What on earth would you want with two heads?"

"I could sleep with one and stay awake with the other," explained Simple. "Just like I got two nostrils, I would also like to have two mouths, then I could eat with one mouth while I am talking with the other. Joyce always starts an argument while we are eating, any-how. That Joyce can talk and eat all at once."

"Suppose Joyce had two mouths, too," I said. "She could double-talk you."
"I would not keep company with a woman that had two mouths," said Simple. "But I would like to have two myself."

"If you had two mouths, you would have to have two noses also," I said, "and it would not make much sense to have two noses, would it?"
"No," said Simple, "I reckon it wouldn't. Neither would I like to have two chins to have to shave. A chin is no use for a thing. But there is one thing I sure would like to have two of. Since I have--"

"Since you have two eyes, I know you would like to have two faces -- one in front and one behind -- so you could look at all those pretty women on the street both going and coming."

"That would be idealistic," said Simple, "but that is not what I was going to say. You always cut me off. So you go ahead and talk."
"I know you wish you had two stomachs," I said, "so you could eat more of Joyce's good cooking."

"No, I do not wish I had two stomachs," said Simple. "I can put away enough food in one belly to mighty near wreck my pocket-book-with prices as high as a cat's back in a dogfight. So I do not need two stomachs. Neither do I need two navels on the stomach I got. What use are they? But there is one thing I sure wish I had two of."

"Two gullets?" I asked.
"Two gullets is not what I wish I had at all," said Simple. "Let me talk! I wish I had two brains."
"Two brains! Why?"

"So I could think with one, and let the other one rest, man, that's why. I am tired of trying to figure out how to get ahead in this world. If I had two brains, I could think with one brain while the other brain was asleep. I could plan with one while the other brain was drunk. As it is now, there is too much in this world for one brain to take care of alone. I have thought so much with my one brain that it is about wore out. In fact, I need a rest right now."



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