Comparison of Ralph Ellison's ‘The Black Ball’ and Langston Hughes' ‘Why, You Reckon?’: Essay

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In ‘The Black Ball’ by Ralph Ellison, the story’s themes are struggle, equality, hope, and connection, while in ‘Why, You Reckon?’ by Langston Hughes, the author uses two characters at the beginning to show peer pressure, poverty, and racism.

In ‘The Black Ball’, Ellison discusses the relationship he has with his own race. For example, John’s son in the story says, “Brown’s much nicer than white, isn’t it, Daddy?” (Ellison, 344). John’s son is exploring his own racial status in society. As he becomes more aware of discrimination and exclusion, he increasingly distances himself from society and becomes more disillusioned. “Well, if I ever see him around here again, you’re going to find yourself behind the black ball. Now get him on round to the back and then come up here and clean up this mess he’s made” (Ellison, 351). John’s boss uses this quote to explain his disillusionment and anger at John's son for a white boy throwing his ball through his window. Although both of these examples illustrate a turning point in society, John and his son eventually gained a greater understanding as follows: “He had already played with the ball; that he would discover later. He was learning the rules of the game already, but he didn’t know it” (Ellison, 352). Ellison strengthens the reader's understanding of this break with society and personal gain as all of the characters grow.

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Hughes uses class to make the same point as Ellison. Hughes develops his characters through struggle and sheds light on the disillusionment with the class system. “Man, ain’t you hongry? Didn’t I see you down there at the charities today, not gettin’ nothin’ like me? You didn’t get a thing, did you? Hell, no! Well, you gotta take what you want, that’s all, reach out and take it” (Hughes, 253). This quote shows the realization that the class system breaks individuals systematically and creates rifts in society. This realization ultimately leads to a sense of disillusionment with society, as illustrated by the men robbing Edward. However, as Hughes develops the story, he ultimately shows that the disillusionment towards society is a source of strength and greater understanding, illustrated by “What do you suppose is the matter with rich white folks? Why you reckon they ain’t happy?” (Hughes, 258).

Both works address racism but use completely different characters and styles to reveal the discrimination that African Americans faced in the 1920s. Langston Hughes and Ralph Ellison were trying to present another perspective on racial issues to give the readers a new respect for the black community. ‘Why, You Reckon?’ by Langston Hughes and ‘The Black Ball’ by Ralph Ellison had the same key points on the racial issues going on. With both authors presenting the world through a colored person’s eyes, the similarities in their stories with problems of race, diversity, and powerlessness differ in each man and woman.

In conclusion, both men work hard despite them not being treated equally. At the end of ‘The Black Ball’, Ellison ends the story with a sense of hope. In ‘Why, You Reckon’ by Langston Hughes, the author expresses to the audience that just because people have money doesn't mean that they are happy.

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Comparison of Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Black Ball’ and Langston Hughes’ ‘Why, You Reckon?’: Essay. (2023, November 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 14, 2024, from
“Comparison of Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Black Ball’ and Langston Hughes’ ‘Why, You Reckon?’: Essay.” Edubirdie, 15 Nov. 2023,
Comparison of Ralph Ellison’s ‘The Black Ball’ and Langston Hughes’ ‘Why, You Reckon?’: Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 Jul. 2024].
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