Abstract illustration of the houses of Clybourne Park

A Raisin in the Sun

by Lorraine Hansberry

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How do you compare and contrast the poem "Harlem" with A Raisin in the Sun?

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Certainly, there is a strong basis for comparison as the title of the play comes from the poem.  The most evident level of comparison in my mind is where the questions of how anyone deals with the challenges of accomplishing dreams can be seen in both works.  For Hughes, each sphere of interaction differs as to what happens to dreams that are not immediately accomplished, or put aside.  In the play, this is also seen as individual characters feature different ways of approaching a consciousness where deferral is a daily or hourly reality.  I think that the primary level of contrast could be on how both the play and the poem take different points of view on the notion of redemption.  In Hughes' poem, the mass deferral of dreams for so many and the shocking consistency with which this is a reality causes a condition where negativity and pain is highly present.  Yet, in the play, there is challenge and difficulty, yet a level of redemption is highly present at the end of the play, allowing not a deferral of dreams, but an embrace of them.

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I would consider what each of the main character's dreams is.  For example, Mama (Lena) simply wants her children to be content with happy families.  Walter wants to feel like a man who provides for his family while being his own boss. 

Taking these dreams into account and considering what you know about the events in the play, whose dream do you think has seemed to "wither in the sun" or "fester like a sore"?  If you look at each of the images that Hughes creates in the poem, you can link those images with the dreams of Mama, Walter, Beneatha, or Ruth

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What is the difference between  the play A Raisin in the Sun and the poem "Harlem"?

Hansberry's play takes the line from Hughes' poem as its title.  The poem, "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, seeks to analyze the differerent implications of dreams that are denied or set aside.  He accomplishes this through employing several images posed in the forms of questions.  One such picture is the idea of "Does it dry up- like a raisin in the sun?"  This particular notion conjures up the idea of a succulent fruit that is left on the vine for the harsh rays of the sun to sap the juice out of it as it changes from the grape to the overexposed raisin.  In employing such an image as its title, Hansberry's play examines what happens to a family that is struggling to succeed in social, economic, personal, and psychological levels of challenge.  The Younger family's dream of success and recognizing their hopes and promises are exposed to so much harshness of reality that it is akin to Hughes' grape and the heat energy of the sun.

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