Langston Hughes’ writing in “Bad Man” is autobiographical in a sense, but at the same time, Hughes tells the reader that this notion of a bad man has been brought upon his speaker by others, when he states, “I’m a bad, bad man/ Cause everybody tells me so” (1-2). He does not seem to mind the label which stuck to him, but instead, to him, his bravado and carefree attitude define him as a person.
My first analysis of the poem is that the speaker lives his life in a carefree manner and does not feel the need to be responsible for his actions. I found the second stanza of the poem very interesting due to the fact that the lines seem to connect with each other, almost as if the speaker fails to distinguish the difference between his wife and “side gal.” Hughes ends the lines with “an’” which makes the text flow in such a way that it seems as if the two women are both insignificant to his life. Hughes writes, “I beats ma wife an’/ I beats ma side gal too” (7-8). This sounds almost so nonchalant, as if he does not see any faults in actions. What is more alarming is that although the speaker admits that he beats the two women, he does not recognize that as a reason for him being a “bad man”. He goes on to say, “I don’t know why I do it but/ It keeps me from feelin’ blue” (11-12).
The speaker tells his reader in the beginning that the title of a “bad man” has been given to him by others, but then in a blues-like manner, he speaks of his violent ways. My second analysis of the poem is that perhaps the reason for this was to express his sadness in the person he became. Perhaps he was not so carefree, and he did care, but chose to accept his mistakes. The blues was written to speak about the many hardships of life which leads me to believe that although the speaker does not necessarily come to grips with his wrong doing by literally stating so, his words are actually speaking louder than his actions in this case, and he knows that violence and cheating is one of his hardships that he has to live with. The speaker says, “I’m goin’ to de devil an’/ I wouldn’t go to heaben if I could” (17-18). In these last lines of the poem, the reader understands his struggle and accepts the fact that his flaws have made him a bad person. Although the speaker’s way of thinking, which implies that he would not be capable of going to heaven anyhow after what he’s done, nor did it matter how bad he was for the rest of his life, may not compare with out current views, the blues tells a story which is autobiographical to him and he was his own judge in the end.