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While Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, James Baldwin's The Language of the Streets, and Langston Hughes' "Dinner Guest: Me," were all written by different men with different intentions, these three works each share the common theme of social problems in urban communities that have not received the attention they deserve. These three men each expose social problems in different communities in different times. Mayhew examines the plight of the mudlark in nineteenth century London, Baldwin discusses the poor condition of inner city communities, and Hughes portrays the "negro problem" of the early 1900s. While each author writes about a different problem, they also each write about how a blind eye is being turned to the particular social issue. These problems affect most of the members of the communities Mayhew, Baldwin, and Hughes depict, and yet in each piece it is made clear that adequate attention is not being paid to these important matters. The need for change in the light of social problems can come only when a genuine attempt is made. This attention and attempt is what Mayhew, Baldwin, and Hughes are each calling for in their work, as a response to the complete apathy they have encountered.
Mayhew examines the plight of the mudlarks from a sociological standpoint, yet his depiction evokes a sense of sympathy from the reader, as they hear story after story of orphans and poor people who are reduced to this substandard of living. Mudlarks can be people of every age, and their job is to go out daily into the muddy bands of the river Thames while the tide is low and search for bits of coal, wood, rope or nails to sell. The difficult lives these people lead is reflected in their appearance, with their "tattered indescribable things that serve them for clothing, their bodies grimed with the foul soil of the river, and their torn garments stiffened up like boards with dirt of eve…