In Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun, the author reveals a hard-working, honest African-American family struggling to make their dreams come true. Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem," illustrates what could happen if those dreams never came to fruition. Together, both Hansberry and Hughes show the effects on human beings when a long-awaited dream is thwarted by economic and social hardships.
Each of the characters in A Raisin in the Sun has a dream for which they base their whole happiness and livelihood on attaining. However, the character of Lena Younger, or Mama, differs from the other members of her family. Time after time, Mama postpones her dream of owning a house and garden to perpetuate the dreams of her family members. Finally, when Mama receives the $10,000 insurance check, she feels that her dream can become reality, and purchases a house in Clybourned Park. Her dream "drys up like a raisin in the sun" when she learns that Walter gave the money to Willy Harris, who mysteriously disappears. Mama does not shatter simply because her dream has not been fulfilled. "Lena Younger's strength of character has come from the steadfast endurance of hardship and a refusal to be conquered by it" (Phillips 51). Mama's economic hardships may have killed her dream, but she has not allowed it to kill her.
The social inequality which the Younger's encounter also does not hinder Mama's compassion. Mr. Lindner temporarily shatters Mama's dream of owning a home when he comes to the Youngers prepared to give them money to move from Clybourne Park. The derogatory use of "you people" by Mr. Lindner has little to no effect on Mama's steadfast decision to move to Clybo...
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... beings react when a dream dies. Edward J. Mullen notes that Hughes' poem represents the idea that, "the inhabitants of this 1951 Harlem seem to be seeking feverishly and forlornly for some simple yet apparently unattainable satisfaction in life" (142). Both Hansberry's play and Hughes' poem establish a powerful and human reaction to the death of a dream.
Hansberry Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun.  Literature. 5th ed. Eds. James N. N. Pickering and Jeffery D. Hoeper. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, O. 1700-57.
Hughes, Langston. "Harlem."  Literature. 5th ed. Eds. James H. Pickering and Jeffery D. Hoeper. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 1027-28.
Mullen, Edward J. Critical Essays on Langston Hughes. Boston: G. K. Hall, 142.
Phillips, Elizabeth C. The Works of Lorraine Hansberry. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973. 48-62.
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