‘Present For Joyce’ by Langston Hughes

Present For Joyce by Langston Hughes, 1957

The magic trick:

Using a circular narrative that finds comedy in Simple chasing his own tail

Today is the first of three holiday stories featuring Hughes’s beloved character Simple that we’ll break down the next couple weeks. The story, reliant as it is on some misogynistic humor, demonstrates the circular narrative Hughes uses for these little slices of Harlem life. Poor Simple can’t win for losing. Nothing here is too serious. Its bitterness about Christmas isn’t sinister; it all has a light touch of comedy. And that’s quite a trick on Hughes’s part.

The selection:

“You cannot hold off Christmas either,” groaned Simple. “I know if Christmas came more than once a year I could not stand it.”

“Don’t you like the Christmas spirit?”

“I like any kind of spirits, provided they have alcohol in them. I love eggnog, well spiked. What I mean is, if Christmas came twice a year, it would be more than a man could bear. Women like to shop. I do not.”

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