Short Story Analysis

"Slave on the Block" By Langston Hughes

Critical Biography

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a prominent poet, dramatist, essayist, and novelist born in Joplin, Missouri on February 1, 1902. He moved to New York to attend the University of Columbia. Shortly after, he dropped out and became acquainted with a set of friends in the Harlem area. There, he was influenced to join the Harlem Renaissance. He began to write poems and stories. Most of his work began to represent the experiences of working-class African Americans. He was never married, and many of his friend would have considered him as asexual. He began to travel to new places. In doing so, he met many new people. They would fawn over him as if he were the most amazing black man alive. His adventures in life and the people whom he met is was influenced him to write stories like, "Slave on the Block" and many more. ("Bevilacqua").


“Slave on the Block” is a short story composed by Langston Hughes. A young black boy finds himself living with a well off Caucasian couple. They were fascinated with African American culture and the beauty of the dark boy's skin. Anne (wife), was an artist who enjoyed painting brown skinned people and liked to place them in different settings while painting. Her husband was a composer of music. He often played the piano while his wife painted. At first, Luther was fond of all the attention that the caraway’s were giving him. He soon came to the realization that they didn't view him as a human being but more of an object. He didn't want to feel obligated to sit on a stool all day while Anne painted him and portrayed him as a slave. He soon gets tired of all this and departs from the friendly, but naive couple's home.

Theme Analyisis

In my story, the author is building the main character up to where he realizes his worth. Throughout the whole story, the Carraways are absolutely fascinated with Luther. It comes off as rude at times, because they make him feel like his purpose in life is to sit on a stool as a statue while being painted. “The Carraways do not acknowledge Luther, or any other black person, as an individual. In fact, they hold firmly to grotesquely racist opinions about blacks as a simple, childlike race, charming, naive, and lovely, whom should be left unspoiled and simply enjoyed” (“Slave on the Block”,277). “Issues of economic class from an underlying theme of story. Despite the fact that the Carraways think of their interest in black culture as part of a radical artistic project, their only actual relationships with black people are the essentially economic ones they have with their servants” (“Slave on the Block,277”).

The Carraways are so nonchalant about the way they treat Luther. In they're minds, he's an object instead of a human being. They don't regret or feel bad about the way they are treating them because they don't even realize that they're treating him unfairly. "In literature, satire is the art of using ridicule, humor, and wit to criticize human nature and institutions. The white liberal couple are clearly satirized in "Slave on the Block". They represent a type of patronizing, unconsciously offensive white patron of black arts in the 1920s and 30s" ("Slave on the Block,279").


Bevilacqua, Winifred Farant. "(James) Langston Hughes." American Short-Story Writers, 1910-1945: First Series. Ed. Bobby Ellen Kimbel. Detroit: Gale, 1989. N. pag. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 86. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 May 2016.

"Slave on the Block" by Langston Hughes, Scribners, September 1933." Scribners Magazine, n.d. Web. 11 May 2016.

'Slave on the Block" Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 4. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 277-279. Print.

Makirah Hall

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