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Vagabonds by Langston Hughes and The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: Comparative Essay

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Literature is the art or work of expressing thoughts or feelings in language. Examples of literature include poetry, drama, non-fiction, fiction, etc. Do you ever notice that a myriad of literary works conveys ideas that are universal, though the works set in particular place and time? Two literary works to compare are ‘Vagabonds’ by Langston Hughes and ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. On account of both works describe the problem of society, the main ideas are same and it is ‘human being’s confrontation with society’. This idea is very common and often found in literary works.

James Mercer Langston Hughes was an African American poet born in Missouri, then he made his career in New York as artist. Vagabond is a poem written by Langston Hughes. Vagabond means a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job. The poem portrays people who are rejected by society, it reminds its story is about racism, the black people who were discriminated in early 1900s. Langston Hughes emphasized some words by dividing the phrases in two to three lines. For example, the last two lines are:

Even though he could write without space, he wrote the “weep” in the last line for emphasizing that they cannot even weep to free from their pain and misery caused from racial discrimination. The main ideas of this poem are ‘struggle for equality’ and ‘human being’s confrontation with society’. Firstly, the racism has existed around for a long time. Black people were discriminated by the whites, representing the white-supremacy society of those days. They even could not get an education, had any food to eat, had no place to stay, had no choice but to live like vagabonds on the street. This also explained why the title is Vagabonds.

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Hip-hop music refers to a culture that values freedom and improvisation independently created by black people living in New York City slums in the 1970s. The Message is a hip-hop rap music by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, released on July 1, 1982. It was a first prominent hip hop music to provide a negative social commentary and describes the stress of inner-city poverty, unlike other earlier hip hop music. The song lyrics often reflect the time in which they were written, so is The Message. According to the economic situation in USA at that time, 1970s, the number of poor people who had difficulties of getting job and housing in the city such as New York due to rising prices. The main idea of the lyrics is ‘human being’s confrontation with society’, same with Vagabonds’. The background of The Message is an urban environment of New York in 1970s to 1980s, its lyrics show what is happening in inner-city society.

Every time there are new literary works, but many of works still convey universal ideas. This is because the readers can feel empathy and are more likely to become absorbed in those works. Uncommon ideas that are too apart from our place and time can be difficult to understand for people as they read. The poem Vagabonds conveys its universal idea to the readers through the author’s background. As mentioned above, the author Langston Hughes was an African American. Moreover, racial discrimination often occurred in America during the writer’s periods. Langston Hughes expressed those miserable feelings he felt at that time in his poem. On the other hand, the song The Message conveys its idea by using money-related words and poor-related words such as ‘ghetto’, ‘unemployed’, ‘bill collectors, they ring my phone’, so on. The Both of works are talking about the social inequality in America, describe people who were treated unfairly than others. The differences of these two works are the poem is about racial problems, the song is about economic problem. The poem shows a white supremacist society with racial discrimination, the lyrics shows the gap between rich and poor. In addition, they have different global issue, the global issue of Vagabonds is politics, power and justice; the global issue of The Message is culture, identity and community. That is to say, the poem includes story that struggling with limits of justice and lack of human rights, but the

In conclusion, a lot of literary works conveyed universal ideas and themes, and it will continue to convey common and universal themes. By conveying universal ideas, literary works communicate with readers, and the works will enable readers to gain sympathy and learn valuable lessons as read them. The poem and the song have lots of similarities and differences. Among them, the same main idea, ‘human being’s confrontation with society’ tells people


  1. “Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967).” Langston Hughes - Historic Missourians - The State Historical Society of Missouri,
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“Vagabonds by Langston Hughes and The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five: Comparative Essay.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
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