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Étude du poème Ballad of the Landlord de Langston Hughes (document en anglais)

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The poem "Ballad of the Landlord" was written by Langston Hughes in the early to middle 1900's. This poem is an imaginary conversation between a black tenant and his landlord. It describes the poor living conditions of the blacks in New York's. The poem is narrated through four characters, each with its own point of view: a tenant, a landlord, the police, and the press.

In the first stanza the tenant is upset with the landlord, because his roof is leaking and his steps are broken. I quote:” My roof has sprung a leak”. He reminds that his complain is already a week old I quote “way last week”.

In the second stanza According to the tenant it is also landlord’s interest to repair the steps because he could fall down himself. The tenant tries to be persuasive and he hopes the landlord will take into account his request. I quote:”When you come up yourself” “It’s a wonder you don’t fall down”. In this paragraph, the tenant employs non standard grammar form I quote: these steps is broken down”.

In the third stanza, we notice that landlord is only interested by getting his money for rent. At this moment, the tenant becomes angrier: I quote “Ten Bucks you say is due?” and give him an ultimatum. I quote:”Till you fix this house up new”. He uses slang and contracted words I quote: “Ten Bucks more’n”. This colloquial language shows us the social difference between the landlord and the tenant.

In the fourth stanza there is a shift in the tone of the tenant’s speech. In reaction to the landlord’s threats to evict him, the tenant responds more emotionally because he is directly concerned by the attack. We may think he is also afraid for his own family. The poet uses metaphor to explain how the landlord can destroy him I quote:”you gonna cut off my heat”.

In the fifth stanza, the tenant is more and more upset I quote: “Um-huh! You talking high and mighty”. The tenant’s language gets more aggressive and violent I quote: “If I land my fist on you”. We are going to see afterwards that they are the last words of the tenant in the poem.

In the sixth stanza, the landlord is requesting the support of the police instead of dealing with the tenant directly. This is quite disproportionate behaviour compared to the situation. The words used by the landlord become excessive declaring to the police that the tenant wants “to ruin the government” (quote). At this stage, the landlord goes beyond his rights thinking he is an important person.

In the seventh stanza, the author uses short rhythmic sentences, I quote:”copper’s whistle!” aiming at making the scene more credible. Thus, the reader has the feeling that the police are arresting a gangster while he has been exploited by the landlord.

At the end, the press’s view of events, represented by the headlines is distant and unsympathetic I quote: “man threatens landlord” The language is incriminating towards the tenant. It describes the accused first as a man then as a tenant and finally as a Negro. The press let’s know I quote:” tenant held no bail” while we know that it is not the cause of the matter but the consequence of landlord’s attitude.

To conclude, "Ballad of the Landlord" is an example of poverty and racism. Normally, as a tenant, you have many rights


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