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by Langston Hughes

Analysis: What's Up With the Title?

Our speaker gets right to the point in "Democracy" by starting his poem with the title itself. There's no doubt then as to what "Democracy" is really about. We get that democracy, in its plainest sense, is a simple concept to understand, just like this poem is equally easy to make sense of. So we don't have any smoke and mirrors or cryptic syntactical phrasing to decode in the title. Instead, Hughes allows his poem to exist just as simply as the themes we see. After all, if freedom is such a basic need, why would our speaker feel compelled to complicate things?

Then again, the poem's title isn't just simple for simplicity's sake. "Democracy" works with the mighty old ideal that people ought to have a voice in their communities. Most everyone has heard the word and most everyone has a basic understanding of what it means. So by having a title that represents such a well-known and highly valued ideal, our speaker is allowed to reach a wider audience that likely sees the importance of democracy and freedom.

In that way, we get the feeling that this poem will never be limited to a particular time or place. Democracy, in its plainest sense, should be recognized and exercised by all people, which is why our speaker doesn't get into specifics in his title or the body of the poem. Thanks to the choice of title, this poem truly represents "Democracy" for all. And that's just the way we like it.

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