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Comparison of August Wilson’s “Fences” and Langston Hughes “Harlem”

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August Wilson’s Fences and Langston Hughes “Harlem” are both meaningful and powerful work of literature that implore the idea of getting one’s dream deferred and broken. Langston Hughes and August Wilson, the two most celebrated African-American writers contributed immensely to enrich their literature among the African Americans dreams and wants. In the poem “Harlem” the author questions different ways a crushed or unattained dream could relate to some unique similes. These similes are shown thoroughly in Fences with a more broader view on different types of dreams the characters in the play had. This all portrays how the two works of literature, Fences and “Harlem,” both arise from the same concept of dreams being deferred.

Langston Hughes Poem “Harlem” is one of many poems he wrote about fulfilling one’s dreams. Written primarily for the African American community, this poem addresses the idea of what happens when you don’t go after your dreams and you put them off or “defer” them to later. Everyone has dreams and goals in life, but for some ethnic groups obviously there are more struggles than others. At that time of the play African Americans were considered low population, therefore, dreams and goals were difficult to achieve. In the poem “Harlem,” Langston Hughes raised the question of what will happen if these dreams are ignored or delayed. This poem is based on a rhetorical question, written in free poems, which allows readers to understand their dreams. In the poem it states “Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?’ (Hughes l. 2-3). This line from the poem is one of the rhetorical questions the author asks the reader about what happens to a deferred dream. Hughes questions that does a person’s dream “dry up’ or go away if it isn’t prioritized or looked upon anymore. Dreams that get deferred often end up not being attained because they aren’t considered as meaningful as they were before. This substantaites that Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” really implores the ideology of deferred dreams and how they arise and their meanings.

August Wilson’s Fences portrays many instances where some of the main character’s dreams are deferred and crushed. The three characters from the play, Troy, Rose, and Cory have gone through this tragedy. This play relates to the poem “Harlem” in various ways. The prime example of this is when Cory’s dream of playing college football is shattered because of his father’s refusal to sign the recruitment papers. The dream which was shattered by his dad is a reminder of why his hatred for him will live on. To be specific, the poem asks the question ‘what happens to a broken dream’ and the play responds by saying it is converted into a source of energy that fuels negative emotions. This validates how the meaning of dreams in the poem “Harlem” is similar to the situation with deferred dreams in the play Fences.

One of the characters from the play Fences has dealt with having his dream lost and unfulfilled. Troy Maxson dream of becoming a professional baseball player was deferred and permanently finished. In the play it states “I’m talking about if you could play ball then they ought to have let you play. Don’t care what color you were. Come telling me I come along too early. If you could play . . . then they ought to have let you play’ (1.1.__). Troy says this line emotinally to Rose which shows the pain Troy feels of not being able to accomplish his childhood dream of playing baseball. Him being unable to have played baseball in his life makes him have a hostile attitude which stems from his past. He blames racism for keeping him from attaining his dream of playing major league baseball, and he can’t let go of this resentment. This resentment is the leading force behind Troy not wanting Cory to get his dreams crushed like him, therefore, not letting Cory play football. In the play it also states “I don’t want him to be like me! I want him to move as far away from my life as he can get. You the only decent thing that ever happened to me. I wish him that. But I don’t wish him a thing else from my life. I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn’t getting involved in no sports” (1.3__). These lines said by Troy showcases the driven force for Troy not letting his son go into sports and ruining Cory’s chances is because of Troy’s own tragedy. This all substantaites that Troy Maxson’s dreams were never attained and instead the failing of his dreams were the root cause of conflict between him and his son.

Rose Maxson from Fences is one of the characters that had gotten her dreams broken. Rose’s dream was to have a great united family and to have everyone feel nurtured and stay close together forever. After Troy Masxon told her about another woman in his life that he has birthed a kid with, Rose’s dream and love for Troy had gotten all crushed and buried. In the play it states “I took all my feelings, my wants and needs, my dreams . . . and I buried them inside you. I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom. And it didn’t take me no eighteen years to find out the soil was hard and rocky and it wasn’t never gonna bloom” (2.1.__). This bitter statement said by Rose portrays how she invested herself into attaining her dream of having a loving family, which now can never happen due to Troy’s actions. After Rose had gotten crushed by Troys actions, it led her to be not the old caring Rose anymore. She does not want to forgive Troy for his bad deeds multiple times and has blocked her feelings for him. Rose now does not behave as Troy’s true wife but instead as a stranger. In the play it states “Ain’t no use in you studying me. It don’t matter what time I come back” (2.4.__). This fierce line said by Rose shows how she has changed her attitudes towards Troy and is no longer caring wife of his. This all validates how Rose Maxson got her dream broken and her old personality as well.

Cory Maxson from the play Fences had gotten his lifelong dream of becoming a baseball player crushed. This dream of his got permanently closed and deferred by his fathers wants. In the play it states “Why you wanna do that to me? That was the one chance I had” (1.4.__). Cory says this to his father after he ruined the great opportunity Cory had by telling the recruiting officers that Cory won’t be playing football at college anymore. This ends up being the crushing blow to Cory’s dream and thus has no other choice but to join the Marines later on in his life. Since Cory’s chance of ever playing football and his parents relationship got ruined because of Troy, Cory behaves rudely with his father and not with respect like before. In the play it states “I ain’t got to say excuse me to you. You don’t count around here no more” (2.4.__). This shows how Cory feel towards his father after everything he did to him and also to his mother. This all validates the fact that Cory Maxson had really dealt with the pain and loss of his lifelong dream of becoming a football player.

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Comparison of August Wilson’s “Fences” and Langston Hughes “Harlem”. (2022, May 11). Retrieved from

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