This holiday season I re-read the play A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. It was the most complete edition, putting back several scenes that had been eliminated in earlier printings.
The characters are truly amazing, three dimensional, full of verve and vigor and have remained in my head as vibrant characters who I feel I know well. The story raises so many questions about identity, justice, and moral responsibility, and although the play was first produced in 1959, and one that changed American theater forever, it is a story that relates well to current times. A back cover quote says it better than I can:
“A play rooted in its own time that speaks through the years to our own.” ~Chicago Tribune~
The story spoke to me on so many levels. I think the human condition does not change that much from one generation to another. Technology does, but the heart, not so much. And a full heart knows nothing of race, color, or creed. The story asks the question: What happens to people whose dreams are constantly deferred? I like to imagine that those same people grow stronger and more determined. But do they? Can they? How many well intentioned people crumble under the weight of never attaining the heights that they set out to attain when young and innocent and sitting around in a dorm room philosophizing and planning for a better future? And how many never made it to the dorm room in the first place?
Lorraine Hansberry unfortunately passed away at much too young an age, a mere 35 years old. She was a pioneering African-American playwright who wrote from the heart with no embellishment or sentimentality. She told her story with such authenticity that her characters almost leapt off the page. I remember seeing an excellent PBS production of A Raisin in the Sun some years ago and wish it would replay. I have never seen a Broadway production of the play, but it if it comes my way I’ll be the first person at the box office.
And here, the poem written by Langston Hughes on the topic of unrealized dreams:
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 think dreams are necessary, like learning, because when you stop dreaming and learning then you shrivel up and dry out like the raisin in the sun. Dreaming can keep the creative juices flowing, the zest for life active, and the body and mind alert. To my mind having no plans and dreams and wishes would be to give up on life’s miraculous journey. What about you? What are your dreams?
My wish for you: The realization of your dreams, and a happy and healthy New Year.