As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

As I Grew Older by Langston Hughes

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun–
My dream.
And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.

Rose until it touched the sky–
The wall.
Shadow.
I am black.
I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.
My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

As I  Grew  Older  by Langston Hughes A Review of the 4 Types of Questions
Compiled from Bagrut F

LOTS: What did the speaker have “a long time ago”?        (5 points)

ANSWER:  The speaker had a dream.

LOTS: What happened to the speaker as he grew older?       (5 points)

ANSWER: He almost forgot what his dream was about. / He was unable to fulfill his dream. / His dream disappeared. / He became aware of racism. / He became pessimistic (because of racism).

The answer MUST refer to the speaker. Therefore an answer:  As the speaker grew older, a wall rose” = 0 

HOTS: Explain how the images of light and darkness are used in the poem.     (10 points)

ANSWER: The image of light is a metaphor for the speaker’s dream and his being able to fulfill it. The image of darkness is a metaphor for his inability to fulfill his dream  (because he is black).

ANOTHER ANSWER: The image of light is a metaphor for equality and the speaker’s belief he has the same chance as everyone else (to reach his dream). The image of darkness is a metaphor for society which tells the speaker that he is not equal because he is black and therefore does not have the same chance to achieve his dream as white people.

The answer MUST relate to the metaphors.

 

BRIDGING TEXT AND CONTEXT: Suggested length 80 – 100 words     (20 points)

“When Langston Hughes wrote the poem As I Grew Older (1925), African Americans were discriminated against. They were prevented from using the same bathrooms and restaurants as whites and were forced to sit at the back of the bus. Essentially, the United States of America was a racist society with racist laws.” – Hamlet Pericles

Make a connection between the above quote and the poem. Give information from the story to support your answer.  

POSSIBLE ANSWER:

The above quote gives us the background for the poem As I Grew Older. When the speaker tells us that there is a wall separating him from his dream, and says “I am black,” we understand that the wall is there because he is black. 

The quote tells us that blacks were terribly discriminated against in American society and treated as inferior at the time the poem was written. Therefore, a black man could not expect to achieve his dreams because every door was closed to him.

EXTENDED HOTS: Is the poem optimistic, pessimistic or both?  Explain.                         (15 points)

Thinking skill I chose ……………………………………………………………………

THREE POSSIBLE ANSWERS (there can be more):   

Thinking skill I chose is inferring………………………………….                                                                                             

I infer that the poem is pessimistic because the speaker talks about a wall which separates him from his dream. I think this wall is the attitude / prejudices / racism of society towards black people. The “wall” separates the speaker from his dream because he is black and he has fewer chances to succeed than whites. 

Thinking skill I chose is inferring………………………………….                                                                                             

The poem is pessimistic because it talks about a wall separating him from his dream. I assume that the wall could probably be any obstacle that prevents him from achieving his dreams. From the speaker’s description of the wall and its shadow I understand that his future is dark and pessimistic.

Note: if pupil says “pessimistic” and refers only to the last stanza, 0 points.

Thinking skill I chose is distinguishing different perspectives………………………………….                                                                                             

The poem is optimistic because the ending / the last stanza is optimistic. At first, the speaker’s perspective is pessimistic because the wall blocks the light and rises between the speaker and his dream. However, the opinion of the speaker at the end of the poem is different. He is going to use his hands to break through the wall and take away the shadow. His new point of view is to break the wall “into a thousand lights of sun”, and that is a hopeful and optimistic attitude // The last word of the poem is “sun”, a hopeful word. // The speaker will fight to make his dream come true and believes he will succeed. // The speaker’s will to fight and not just give up – “lie in the shadow” – makes the poem optimistic.

Note: if the pupil says “optimistic” without relating to the last stanza, 0 points.

 

Possible thinking skills: Inferring / Comparing and contrasting 

Any other thinking skills are acceptable as long as they are supported by the text and can be explained in b.

Pupils can choose either side or take some ideas from one side and some from the other.

b.  Explain why you chose that particular thinking skill to answer the question.

Your answer must refer specifically to the text.    (5 points) 

ANSWER:

Possible explanations for thinking skills:

Inferring:  I chose this HOTS because we are not specifically told whether the poem is pessimistic or optimistic, but I had to infer it from the imagery of light and darkness, plus the image of the wall.

Comparing and Contrasting: I chose this HOTS because in order to understand the poem I had to compare and contrast the different points of view given by the young man and the old (er) man.

Distinguishing different perspectives:  I chose this HOTS because I showed the different perspectives of the speaker as a young and an older man. / I chose this HOTS because I showed the two different perspectives of optimism and pessimism in the same poem (NOTE: only if answer relates to  BOTH  optimism and pessimism).


22.  AS  I  GREW  OLDER / Langston Hughes

Bridging Text and Context: Write 80 – 100 words.

“Poets who write about love, roses and moonlight… must lead a very quiet life. Unfortunately, having been born poor – and also colored – in Missouri, I was stuck in the mud from the beginning. Although I wanted to float off into the clouds, poverty and racism would grab me by the heels, and I would land right back on earth.” – Langston Hughes

Explain how this quote adds to your understanding of the poem.

ANSWER:

Possible answers:

• The quote exactly reflects the message of the poem. In this poem we first read about the poet’s dreams. In the past he believed he could do anything he wanted. The possibilities open to him are represented by the images of the sun and light. However, once he grows up and faces poverty, discrimination and prejudice, he realizes that he has few choices. He is constantly reminded of his limited choices by the image of the shadow. The reason for this is in the line in the middle of the poem: “I am black”. A person of color in Langston Hughes’ time had very few choices and this defined all aspects of his life.

• This quote helps me understand the themes of Langston Hughes’ poetry and what lies behind the poem As I Grew Older.  In the poem he expresses the same feelings as in this quote: that while inside his head he was just like any other man, the outside world did not let him be like any other man. 

The outside world would not let him forget that he was black.  Being black kept him from fulfilling the dreams he had.  He was not allowed to forget that the white world considered him inferior.     

HOTS: Why does the speaker mention using his hands to break through the wall?   (7 points)

ANSWER:

a. The speaker mentions his hands because people use their hands to build and create things, and here the speaker is using his hands to break down the wall in order to build a better world. // Hands are the instruments of change. His hands are used as a metaphor for his mind/ will power. // His “hands” are an artist’s /a writer’s hands and he will try to change his reality / society’s attitudes and / or prejudices through his arts.

Answer must relate to the speaker’s hands and what they do, not simply to breaking through the wall.

b.  What do you think will be the effect of breaking through the wall?     (8 points) 

ANSWER:

• The effect of breaking the wall will lead to the speaker fulfilling his personal dreams.

• The effect of breaking the wall will lead to equality between all people and the end of racism. 

 


BAGRUT 2015

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ANSWER:

The above quote says that even when a dream falls apart and breaks into a thousand pieces, one should not lose hope. You should always pick up even one of the pieces and begin again.

In the poem “As I Grew Older” the speaker has a dream. At some stage he feels his dream is blocked by a wall and he becomes passive. For example: he lies in the shadow. However, as the poem goes on, the speaker finds hope within him and decides not to give up on his dream. For example: he turns to his hands to help him overcome the obstacles and shatter the wall.

As in the quote, so in the poem, there is a dream. Both speakers face a situation in which their dreams break into pieces and they are about to lose hope. However, the message in both the quote and the poem is that you must fight for your dream and not be afraid to try again.

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In the poem “As I Grew Older” the speaker has a dream. At some stage he feels his dream is blocked by a wall which represents racism. The speaker says he is black and racism is a wall which stands in the way to equality. For example: he lies in the shadow. However, as the poem goes on, the speaker finds hope within himself and decides not to give up on his dream. For example: he turns to his hands to help him overcome the obstacles and shatter the wall. Using his hands could symbolize writing poetry. Writing his poem is one of the ways to find his dream of equality.

As in the quote, so in the poem, there is a dream. Both speakers face a situation in which their dreams break into pieces and they are about to lose hope. However, the message in both the quote and the poem is that you must fight for your dream and not be afraid to try again.

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