TITLE The title “Jazzonia” stands for the world of jazz and how each person in the world represents a specific aspect of jazz.
PARAPHRASE Langston Hughes uses his poem “Jazzonia” to show the altered life of the blacks as society surrounds them telling them they are not good enough. Their altered life of the “silver tree” of high- class people surround them putting them down; however, their “shining rivers of the soul” are still apparent. They blacks are safe in their “Harlem cabaret” as the “jazzers play” because it distracts them from the world they are living in. Here the can play their music and be whoever they want to be without being judged or put down.
CONNOTATION The first stanza begins with “oh silver tree!” meaning an altered part of life. We usually think of trees as being green, but Hughes uses it as being silver meaning it has been changed to show more of a high class piece of work that has much more value. The “shining rivers of the soul” represents the people that love jazz and are trying to shine through and show people that they are all into it; they are so involved and they want more people to join them. The second stanza talks about “six-long headed jazzers” playing in a “Harlem cabaret” showing the egos of the players as being long and narrow, however they are in a Harlem cabaret representing the Harlem Renaissance time period. The dancing girl with the silken gold dress as she lifts her spirit to the audience as she dances her way through the time period. The dancer is referred to as Eve meaning before and is then compared to Cleopatra showing how it could still be the same golden dress and they are just as high class as anyone else. This comparison shows how they are just like high-class people and they should be high up in social stature. Repetition is present throughout this poem showing the importance of their altered life, but how their souls have still shined through. They play their music to make them forget about the “whirling cabaret” of high class people surrounding them telling them they are not good enough.
ATTITUDE Hughes shows his attitude through his use of repetition. His choice to repeat the phrase “oh, shining rivers of the soul” shows that he is not letting the high-class white people surrounding him put him down. He is going to be and do what he wants and is not going to let anybody stop him. He puts off a sort of forceful and powerful attitude as he tells people “you can’t destroy my soul.” He also shows a bit of a sarcastic attitude with how he explains the gown of gold on Cleopatra to the one the dancer is wearing in the cabaret. People keep judging him and trying to put him down but he is not going to stand for it.
SHIFT There seems to be a shift between a forceful tone and a sarcastic tone between the 3rd and 4th stanza. He begins the poem talking about his altered life around high-class influence and then it shifts to him comparing the gown of gold between Cleopatra and the dancer showing his sarcasm as if he is saying “she had one so why can’t we?” This shows even more of the high-class motif and how he is advocating for equality.
TITLE REVISITED I still believe the title “Jazzonia” stands for the world of jazz and how each person in the world represents a specific aspect of jazz. However, I do think now it is also showing how everyone is the same in the world of jazz. Hughes uses the world of jazz as a happy place because of the judgmental people he lives with in the real world. “Jazzonia” is like his play-place that he can be free in without anybody judging him for what he looks like, does, or acts.
THEME The theme of this poem is definitely the fight for equality. He uses his frustration, and sarcasm, and repetition to show people the world he lives in, but how he can also live in “Jazzonia” and be treated like everyone else. The feeling of equality is apparent through the poem and in his place of “Jazzonia” he is equal with the rest of the people living in the jazz world.