The Hughes in the poem “I, Too” illuminates the

The use of language and literary devices by Elie Wiesel in the novel Night and by Langston Hughes in the poem “I, Too” illuminates the oppression and persecution of a people, and how they resist the suffocation of their identities in the midst of alienation. The speaker in “I, Too” announces that he is a black domestic servant: “I am the darker brother. / They send me to eat in the kitchen / When company comes, / But I laugh, / And eat well, / And grow strong” (Hughes, 2-7). The phrase “eat in the kitchen” is symbolic of the racial segregation of the era; dehumanization in the sense that black slaves were sent to the kitchen to eat as the domestic pets were. Curiously, the speaker does not allow himself to be despondent; rather, he “laughs, eats, well, and grows strong” – a sort of metaphorical nourishment in which he nurtures his soul, learns from his experiences, and grows in the face of adversary. Just as Hughes’ protagonist is a captive, so is Elie in Night. However, Elie’s narrative emits a bleak aura, unlike the speaker in “I, Too” who remains optimistic throughout his ordeal. During the time Elie is a prisoner, Elie’s identity is completely crushed as a result of the horrors he experiences: “The night had passed completely. The morning star shone in the sky. I too had become a different person. The student of Talmud, the child I was, had been consumed by the flames. All that was left was a shape that resembled me. My soul had been invaded – and devoured – by a black flame” (Wiesel, 37). Fire is an image that is used throughout the novel, accompanying Elie through his narrative. In the idea of being “devoured,” Elie indicates that his faith in God, and therefore his past, religious identity, is disappearing. Elie’s reference to the “black flame” also suggests the dehumanization he experiences as a result of the Holocaust – once a flame has torn through an object, all that is left is a carbonized and blackened remain. Thus, Elie becomes this remain in that the part of his identity that was his humanity has been extinguished. Negative, powerful words such as “invaded” and “devoured” are used to emphasize the magnitude of the impact that the cruelty had on him. Conversely, the “morning star” is a symbol of hope and faith; it has a positive connotation. Although this phrase contradicts the reality of the prisoner camps, it brings forth a sentiment of optimism and hope; the morning star represents the rising of a new day. Similar sentiments of optimism are felt by the speaker in “I, Too” in which he is confident that there will be a “tomorrow” that will produce equality among all races. Despite being ostracized, the speaker demonstrates a heightened sense of self and declares his ambition to assert his legitimacy as an American citizen, to one day be able to eat at the dinner table with other Americans. This overarching tone of optimism and hope is derived from Hughes’ use of language – the future tense implies that the speaker is not sulking in the present; rather, he is looking forward to the future. Hughes’ free verse writing style lacks the rhythm and rhyme of a conventional poem; instead, he delivers his message through short, declarative sentences. As a result, the message that Hughes is conveying is enormous: a resonant “we will be equal”. Conversely, in Night, the voice of Elie Wiesel dwells in the present. During the run to Buna, he concentrates on his survival day by day, unable to focus on the light of hope that could be in his future. Wiesel uses powerful, somber words to paint an image to illustrate the magnitude of suffering that the prisoners experienced as a result of the Nazi’s attempts to dehumanize the Jews. Whereas oppression appears to strengthen the speaker in “I, Too”, oppression slowly destroys the prisoners. Similar to Hughes, Wiesel utilizes a wide range of literary devices, coupled with powerful, precise language, to paint a vivid image in the reader’s mind of the persecution that the protagonists of “I, Too” and Night endured, thus enlightening the reader on our history of alienation and segregation.