In Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem,” he discusses the idea of unfulfilled dreams and their plausible outcomes using symbolism and imagery. He initially describes a “deferred” dream as a sun-dried raisin, depicting the dream originally as a fresh grape that now has dried up and “turned black” (Jemie 63). This idea provides Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun with its basic foundation, for it is a play about a house full of unfulfilled dreams. As the poem goes on, Hughes depicts the idea of a deferred dream as something rotten or gone bad. According to Onwuchekwa Jemie, this may be an allusion to the American Dream and its empty promises (Jemie 64).
The idea of failed ambitions was quite a popular theme, especially during the mid-1900s, because this was when the “American Dream” concept was spreading in American society. The American Dream was the belief that in America one has the opportunity to achieve wealth and happiness provided that that person works hard enough (Drama for Students). This theme is evident in Hansberry’s work, “set in Chicago’s Southside, sometime between World War II and the present” (Hansberry, Act I, Scene I). During some time in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, the storyline takes place in the middle of a very dynamic time for America. The “largest mass movement in American History” called the Great Migration, which describes the movement of millions of African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North, predominantly to New York and Chicago, was in full swing (Literature and Its Times…). Because most African Americans in Chicago lived in the “South Side” area, persons often referred to it as the Black Belt (Literature and Its Times…). Another popular …
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