Analysis of "Ballad of the Landlord" Notes

Analysis of "Ballad of the Landlord" Notes

By Langston Hughes (USA)

Landlord, landlord!

My roof has sprung a leak.

Don’t you remember I told you about it

Way last week?


Landlord, landlord!

These steps is broken down

When you come up yourself

It’s a wonder you don’t fall down.


Ten bucks you say I owe you/

Ten bucks you say is due?

Well, that’s ten bucks more and I’ll pay you

Till you fix this house up new.


What? You gonna get eviction order

You gonna cut off my heat?

You gonna take my furniture

And throw it in the street?


Um-huh! You talking high and mighty

Talk on-till get through

You won’t gonna be able to say a word

If I land my fist on you.


Police! Police!

Come and get this man!

He’s trying to ruin the government

and overturn the land!


Copper’s whistle!

Patrol bell!



Police Prencint station

Iron cell

Headlines in press.


Man threatens landlord

Tenant held no bail

Judge gives Negro 90 days in county jail.



1. About the Poet. Langston Hughes (1902-1967), American writer, known for using the rhythms of jazz and of everyday black speech in his poetry. Hughes was one of the first writers to portray the urban black experience realistically. His poems typically express the tribulations and sometimes the joys of ghetto life in plain, spirited language resembling the colloquial speech of American blacks.

2. Title of the poem. The title of the poem is reflective of the evils that happen in racially segregated societies like America where the landlords were mostly white and owned major means of production. These landlords harassed Africans to the extent that Africans tried to respond but they met with a heavy government hand. 

3. Brief Summary/Paraphrase of the poem. The poem is about a quarrel between a landlord and a tenant. The landlord (the owner of the house) wants his house rent, but the tenant refuses to pay until the landlord repairs the leaking house with some steps broken. Then, landlord threatens to throw the tenant out of the house. The tenant also threatens the landlord. The landlord decides now to call the police. The tenant is arrested. Finally, the tenant is accused for overthrowing the

Government and is imprisoned for 90 days in county jail.

4. Persona. The person speaking in the poem is an oppressed tenant who is illegally oppressed and exploited by the government, the landlord, and the system of racial segregation.

5. Addressee. The addressee or audience of this poem is any one or any society that is oppressed or exploited by landlords or by the bad system of the society itself.

6. Tone. The tone of the poet is angry and sad. The line “If I land my fist on you” shows how angry the persona is.


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Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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