Struggling Dreams

Several poems attempt to address social and political issues. In several of Langston Hughes’s poems, he expresses sociopolitical protests. He portrayed people whose lives were impacted by racism and sexual conflicts, he wrote about southern violence, Harlem street life, poverty, prejudice, hunger, hopelessness. Hughes’s poem a “Dream Deferred” was published in 1951. The poem speculated about the consequences of white’s society’s withholding of equal opportunity. The title of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raison in the Sun was taken directly from Hughes’s poem. Hansberry’s parents were intellectuals and activists, and her father won an antisegregation case before the Illinois Supreme Court, upon which the events in A Raison in the Sun were loosely based. “Dream Deferred” is applied to several of the characters in Hansberry’s play.
“Dream Deferred” was written during the Harlem Renaissance between the 1920s and 40s, after World War I. It was a time when African Americans began an intellectual movement. Harlem became the center of African American culture. Most African Americans began a movement to rethink their values and appreciation of their roots and Africa. Beneatha was a prime example of this from the play. She is very intellectually proud with everyone she comes into contact with; even her family. Her name Beneatha alone connotes the idea that everyone is “beneath” her. For instance, when she speaks to her mother about Asagai, she speaks down to her mother as if she were a child. School and learning her heritage to Africa is what is valued most in her life. She is very adamant about getting married. She doesn’t want to get serious with George because he thinks it’s absurd that she is going to school for medicine.
A dream deferred is a dream that is put off. The poem reflects the possibilities of what happens to a dream deferred. Lena’s family dreams were deferred. Lena’s dream was to move to a house with a back yard for her grandson to play in- a dream for the future. Earlier on, she and her husband had a dream of moving out of the apartment, but it never happened. She has good old values of putting your family first, respecting your mother and father, and respecting the Lord. When she saw her falling starting to fall apart, she took the insurance money to secure a home in a mew neighborhood. She took the chance of living in a white neighborhood, after reports showed that other African Americans were harassed and bombed for “invading”. Lena hoped to save her family. Also, during a conversation with Beneatha, she slaps Beneatha for disrespecting the lord. She makes Beneatha repeat “In my mother’s house there is still God”. Lena shows further the importance of her family by putting aside her own values to give her son money for a liquor store she thinks is corrupt.
Walter, on the other hand, valued his pride and money for most of the play. He insists on being the head of the family and thrives on the acceptance of him as that role. When his manhood is questioned, he is greatly angered. He expects and tries to demand for the rest of the family to listen to him and follow in his guide through life. He shows his anger when Ruth will not listen to his ideas and when his mother will not give money towards his business interest. Walter’s dreams of rising in wealth and living as his employer, Mr. Arnold, does. He tells his Mama, "“sometimes its like I can see the future stretched out in front of me- just plain as day... Just waiting for me- a big looming black space- full of nothing... But it don’t have to be.” Walter’s dream was deferred at first because he couldn’t convince his Mama to invest in the business, and then when Willy left with all the money. Walter was sugared over by a hustler and conman. He becomes hopeless and sags like a heavy load. Towards the end, Walter explodes when he changes his mind not to beg to Mr. Lindner and protects his family’s pride.
Ruth has values of a traditional women. Her husband and child are the most valuable to her. Ruth’s dream was to move out of their present living conditions.