During the Harlem Renaissance white art enthusiast aided the development of black artist, by funding these artists. The Blues I’m Playing by Langston Hughes is a short story where a young African American pianist, Oceola Jones, who studies music under the patronage of Dora Ellsworth. Dora is a wealthy, white middle aged, widow with no children. Langston Hughes uses this connection between these characters to express the meaning of the blues. The meaning blues isn’t very clear until the very end of the story, when Oceola and Ms.
Ellsworth had their fallout. Ms. Ellsworth is very upset when she learns that Oceola wants to marry Pete Williams. Dora believes that marriage will burden her protegee talents. “He’ll take all the music out of you” (pg 475). Oceola is playing the piano one last time for Ms. Ellsworth before she leaves to Europe. They begin to argue while Oceola is playing one of Beethoven sonatas. As they continue to argue Osceola’s change the style of playing to the Negro Blues. As Osceola plays on Dora ask “Is this what I spent thousands of dollars to teach you? (pg 475) Oceola replies “No, this is mine… Listen. ”(pg 475) Oceola’s blues began to flourish. Blues that Oceola plays only comes in a time of distress. The fight between Oceola and Ms. Ellsworth force the blues out of Oceola. The Blues in this story represents Oceola real feeling about love, music and art. According to Ralph Ellison “the blues is an impulse to keep painful details and episodes of a brutal existence alive in one’s aching consciousness…” This definition and Langston Hughes’s interpretation of Blues seem to not conform to each other.
Ellison is saying that the artist of the blues has to have a hardship in their past to express it in the blues. In Hughes’s story Oceola really never had anything in her past that made express the blues like she did. It was more that she couldn’t outlet her frustration of Ms. Ellsworth and her feeling of art to anyone. Oceola bottle up the feeling and lashed out at the end to Ms. Ellsworth in a blues song. Ellison’s and Hughes’s definitions are both good interpretation of what the blues are. By combining Ellison’s and Hughes’s interpretation we have a clear definition of what the blues really are.
The Blues is a kind of jazz that evolved from the music of African-Americans, especially work songs and spirituals. Blues pieces often express worry or depression. The songs help keep remembrance of past hardship experienced and help cope with future problem that may come. The patronage of whites helped the African American art and music explode during the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes uses the connection between Oceola and Ms. Ellsworth to express his interpretation of the Blues. Hughes’s and Ellison’s definitions help explain what the blues actually are.
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