Feeling Unable to Imitate a Hero
In All Our Names, Langston and Helen struggle with the feeling they do not have what it takes to be a hero or a revered figure in their societies. Langston is throughout the novel seen as a dependent character throughout the novel that likes to be behind the scenes, but is constantly pushed into the spotlight by Isaac, who he has great admiration for. In Helen’s case, she was not trying to imitate a hero. She wanted change, but she didn’t know how to stand firm to enforce change in her environment. Langston describes his inability to engage in imitating revolutionaries,
“I spent my first few weeks in the capital trying to imitate the gangs of boys that lingered around the university and the cafes and bars that bordered it. Back then, all the boys our age wanted to be revolutionaries. On campus, and in the poor quarters where Isaac and I lived, there were dozens of Lumumbas, Marleys, Malcoms, Cesaires, Kenyattas, Senghors, and Selassies, boys who woke up every morning and donned the black hats and olive green costumes of their heroes. I couldn’t match them, so I let the few strands of hair on my chin grow long (4).”
The quote explains how infirm Langston was in his life and shows his introverted side. He points out his urge to fit in on campus. but ultimately had the feeling that he could not measure up to the other boys. Helen wanted her and Isaac to have little victories instead of being heroes. She said “I set my sights low. Incremental progress was my philosophy. We didn’t had to be heroer. There had been enough of those already, and in many ways, I reasoned, Isaac and I had already picked up the fight (34),” detailing her rationalization of how she dealt with the segregated society that hindered her relationship with Isaac. Her quote is the answer to Langston’s quote revealing a need to conform. While, Helen is pretending to be strong in the face of prejudice.