Ballad of the Landlord

This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Ballad of the Landlord” (1940) by Langston Hughes. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective

Langston Hughes (1901-1967) was an American poet, novelist, and columnist who is best known as one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance. Many of Hughes’ poems explore the life and condition of African Americans in the US. The poem “Ballad of the Landlord” was first published in the academic journal Opportunity: The Journal of Negro Life in December 1940.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Repetition and rhetorical questions

In the third stanza, the repetition of “ten bucks” reflects the tenant’s increasing anger. When the landlord asks for more money, the tenant expresses his anger and frustration with the help of rhetorical questions: “Ten Bucks you say I owe you? Ten Bucks you say is due?” (ll. 9-10). 

In the fourth stanza, the repetition “you gonna” highlights the tenant’s anger, frustration, while the rhetorical questions highlight his challenging attitude towards the landlord:

What? You gonna get eviction orders?

You gonna cut off my heat?

You gonna take my furniture and

Throw it in the street? (ll. 13-16)

In this example, the repetition and rhetorical questions also show that the tenant is aware of the injustice he suffers and of the landlord’s neglect and bad attitude...

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Ballad of the Landlord

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