In “By the Pale Dull Pallor of an Old Gas Light,” Steven Nardi argues Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” speaks to a “disjunction” between poets and musicians, as well as a sense of loss for a culture changed by modernization (Nardi 256). Nardi marks the influence of modernization at play in Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” by noting the transition from gas to electric lighting at the turn of the century. Nardi argues that the musician represents an older generation left behind by the modernization of the city, as he plays alone in the dark without electricity and is later described as a “rock” or a “man that’s dead” (Hughes). Nardi highlights the sense of disconnect between Hughes’ narration as a poet and the musician by noting the “rhythmically distinct” natures of poetry and music, as Hughes employs “mostly iambic couplets” for the speaker’s voice while utilizing a “four beat, ballad stanza” for the musician’s voice (Nardi 258). According to Nardi, the rhythmic distinctions between Hughes’ and the subject of his poem demonstrate an “unbridgeable difference” between Hughes’ poetry and jazz music, which speaks to a larger disconnect between Hughes and African American folk culture (Nardi 257). Nardi argues “The Weary Blues” was written at a time in which Hughes “found a balance between the competing demands of his own poetic voice, and the voices of the silenced black culture that Hughes found himself excluded from” (Nardi 255). Through analyzing the technological context, rhythmic differences in the speaker and musician’s voices, and the poem’s interplay with blues and jazz music, Nardi argues that “The Weary Blues” encapsulates the dilemma between the folk and modernity, a pressing issue for Hughes and his contemporaries.
Nardi, Steven A. “‘By the Pale Dull Pallor of an Old Gas Light’: Technology and Vision in Langston Hughes’s ‘The Weary Blues.’” In New Voices on the Harlem Renaissance: Essays on Race, Gender, and Literary Discourse, ed. by Australia Tarver and Paula C. Barnes. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005. 253–68. https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mlf&AN=2006297637&site=ehost-live.