“Why, You Reckon?”
With disillusionment after World War I, the writers in Modernist period spoke out against the divide known as racial discrimination. Langston Hughes mixes tone, irony, and theme to show failing dependence on the color of skin in “Why, You Reckon?”
The mood and atmosphere adds to it through an entertaining situation, where the narrator and main character who is black, speaks in a comical manner. He says, “Well, sir, I ain’t never been mixed up in nothing wrong before nor since, and I don’t intend to be again, but I was hongry that night” (253). In another instance, the narrator is tricked and cheated by a black man then left with a white man, Edward. While feeling foolish for trusting a black man, like himself, it really throws him off guard when Edward speaks up after being robbed, saying, “Gee, this was exciting!” (257). In this case, the atmosphere of being robbed should be traumatic, but the reader leaves with this humorous mood, because of the remark.
The irony in the story expresses that the color of skin is not reliable. Toward the end of the narrative, the other black man took all of Edward’s belongings. Then the three laughed at how awkward it was of Edward handing over his shoes. ‘“But I’m laughin’ last,’ said the other fellow, ‘You two can stay here and laugh if you want to, both of you, but I’m gone. So long!’” 257). He left the narrator still hungry and poor, then took everything, leaving him with Edward in the furnace room. This was ironic because the reader expects the black man to divvy up the goods with the narrator, who is black like himself.
The final element and theme about Hughes’ message of skin color, instead of a characters actions and dialogue is to be, that one cannot trust a person based on skin color, or outer circumstances like hunger, or wealth alone. For instance, the narrator trusted the other black man because he was poor and like him. On the other hand, the one black man robbed Edward because he was...