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The Transformation of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

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In Langston Hughes’ poem, A Dream Deferred, Hughes wonders what happens to a dream that does not come true. He writes, “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?” In A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry, Walter shows that his deferred dream does both. Early in the play, he shares his hopes and dreams for his family and their future with his young son, Travis. He imagines that earning his fortune will cure all the shortcomings and injustices in their lives. The limitations of Walter’s aspirations for himself and his family undermine his ability to save his family. Walter’s acceptance of unjust systems, which makes one man “master” and another one “servant,” compromises the power of Walter’s dream. By showing that Walter has internalized this corrupt system, Hansberry illustrates that his dream will not bring Walter or his family happiness.
In the dream, Walter sees himself as having wealth, position, and power. Walter dreams of opening a liquor store because it is “a business transaction that’s going to change our lives.” His success earns him a “plain black Chrysler”, a house of his own with a gardener named Jefferson, a devoted wife, and the ability to send his son to “all the great schools in the world!” Hansberry reveals a bitter reality embedded in Walter’s dream, which shows it is hollow.
In Walter’s dream, he has become the master of his ideal realm with all the injustice that has often come with that role. He imagines he is addressed by his gardener as “Mr. Younger”, while Walter addresses him as “Jefferson,” emphasizing their difference in position. It is also notable that, though Walter asks Jefferson how he is doing, he does not wait to hear the answer. This moment suggests that Jefferson is ju...

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...ter sacrifices his pride and self-worth for some fast cash, he begins to hate himself. He must slowly come to realize that self-respect and pride are worth much more than money.
It is ironic that even in his dream, Walter casts himself as the master, perpetuating a system that has been the cause of his unhappiness. Hansberry shows us the painful reality that prejudice can be so deep-seeded in our culture that even the people, who are hurt by it, like Walter, can’t see past the dangerous practices that shackle many people. It is not until later that Walter learns that money isn’t everything and equality is. He then finds the courage to confront racism and his dream to help his family is transformed so that it does not “… dry up like a raisin in the sun…” Only at the end of the play does Walter escape the fate that Langston Hughes warned about in his famous poem.
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