…a Dream Deferred

Lorraine Hansberry begins A Raisin in the Sun, with the Langston Hughes poem “Harlem.”

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

I’ve known of this poem for years, but had only ever thought of it in connection with this play – what I hadn’t realized was that it was just one of a series of poems on the topic Hughes wrote, called Montage of a Dream Deferred. I am not a poet, nor am I a scholar of poetry, so I’m not going to analyze them, but I do want to share a few – they resonate throughout the play, and as we go into the rehearsal room each day, I find that the resonance grows stronger. What is the consequence of deferring your dreams? When does the desperation and the frustration kick in?

Dream Boogie
Good morning, daddy!
Ain’t you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?

Listen closely:
You’ll hear their feet
Beating out and beating out a –

You think
It’s a happy beat? 

Listen to it closely:
Ain’t you heard
Something underneath
Like a –

What did I say?

I’m happy!
Take it away!

Hey, pop!


Tell Me
Why should it be my loneliness,
Why should it be my song,
Why should it be my dream

This year, maybe, do you think I can graduate?
I’m already two years late.
Dropped out six months when I was seven,
At a year when I was eleven,
Then got put back when we come North.
To get through high at twenty’s kind of late –
But maybe this year I can graduate.

Maybe now I can have that white enamel stove
I dreamed about when we first fell in love
Eighteen years ago.
But you know,
Rooming and everything
Then kids,
Cold-water flat and all that.
But now my daughter’s married
And my boy’s most grown –
Quit school to work –
And where we’re moving
There ain’t no stove –
Maybe I can buy that white enamel stove!

Me, I always did want to study French.
It don’t make sense –
I’ll never go to France,
But night schools teach French.
Now at last I’ve got a job
Where I get off at five,
In time to wash and dress,
So, s’il vous plait, I’ll study French!

I’m gonna buy two new suits
At once!

All I want is
One more bottle of gin.

All I want is to see
My furniture paid for.

All I want is a wife who will
Work with me and not against me. Say,
Baby, could you see your way clear?

Heaven, heaven, is my home!
This world I’ll leave behind.
When I set my feet in glory
I’ll have a throne for mine!

I want to pass the civil service.

I want a television set.

You know, as old as I am,
I ain’t never
Owned a decent radio yet?

I’d like to take up Bach.

Of a dream

Buddy, have you heard?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s