Harlem by Langston Hughes

Running head: English Literature (Classic and Modern)

English Literature (Classic and Modern)


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“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

The poem talks about dreams that have been put on hold or deferred. The poet wonders what happens to such dreams that have been postponed. In this context, dreams are goals in a person’s life and not to be taken as the literal dream a person gets when they go to sleep. So he asks what happens to goals that have not been achieved. The questions are rhetorical as they seem to answer themselves.

The theme seems to be the destruction of a person who has to keep on postponing their dreams so as to actualize them later or not at all. These negative effects are shown with the use of similes.

The first simile “like a raisin in the sun” gives us a visual context. A raisin is usually rounded, juicy and fresh having beneficial nutritional value. However, if exposed to the sun and it dries up it is no longer edible or sweet. It becomes hard, and its value is sucked out. This is what happens if dreams are not realized.

“Or fester like a sore- and then run.” Sores are found on the body and if left unattended may be infected and begin to become purulent, run and leave a scar. A dream that is unfulfilled may form visible scars on a person that may be with them for the rest of their lives. In this context, scars are used to depict past experiences.

The next simile is “stink like rotten meat.” Meat has a period in which it is viable before it becomes rancid and gives off a foul odor. Therefore, dreams that are not realized within a given period may start to decay since it is already dead. This results to horrible odors that may be offensive to the individual himself. He may even begin loathing himself for not taking his opportunities when they were fresh.

“Or crust and sugar over – like a syrupy sweet?” In this particular simile, dreams are compared to honey or syrup which if left unused for some time, it forms a hard, crusty layer on top and the contents in the bottle can no longer be used. In this same way, thoughts or dreams that sit idle in the mind become hardened and are of no use. This may come about due to despair, anger, self-hatred and doubt which may make a person second guess their every decision.

The last simile is not in question form but a suggestion. “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.” If one tries walking while carrying a heavy load, she or he realizes that they become slow and clumsy. A dream that has not been realized becomes heavy, weighing down on the mind making it sag with thoughts of ‘what if,’ ‘I wish I had done things differently,’ or ‘had I known I would have.’ These thoughts dwell on the past and on a mind that deferred a dream it may be a weight they cannot bear. This may lead to depression, and in some instances, thoughts of a life wasted may result in suicide attempts.

The Iraq War and Its Effect on Soldiers

According to The Merriam-Webster dictionary, war is described as a state of usually open and declared armed, hostile conflict between states or nations. The Iraq war started even before 2003 when the American government decided to invade Iraq. According to Carlisle (2007), the war actually started after the Gulf war when Iraq did not live up to the surrender agreement. He goes on to say that, in 1991, the Hussein government tried to hide chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. As much as the Iraqi government seemed to cooperate, they did not allow they prevented the inspection team from actually seeing or finding its weapon program.

It is this particular reason that Tunc (2005) suggests that the key policy-makers in the Bush administration concluded that by toppling Saddam Hussein and his regime would eliminate radical Islamic terrorism. The war was fought on military, psychological and ideological fronts. The military’s rationale was to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and deprive the Al Qaeda their main source of the weapons. Demonstrating American power and discrediting the common belief in the Middle East about US weakness was the psychological rationale. Iraq war was seen as a major step towards political and cultural transformation of the Middle East based on the ideological rationale (Tunc, 2005). He goes on to say that the American government viewed Baghdad as a democratic regime. It would also serve as a model of liberation and freedom for Iran and other Arab countries.

For whatever the reasons are to go to war, it does have some effects on those who participate in it. The effect to those fighting in the war may include a dependency of drugs and emotional problems, including explosive anger, excessive vigilance and a complete distrust of others. These are signs of post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) which may culminate in suicide in some cases. In some instances, soldiers exhibit high levels of stress, a condition known as battle fatigue.

Soldiers have been known to be startled by noises. In their minds, loud noises take them back to the battlefield, where they think it could be a bomb, or a sniper shooting at them. Returning soldiers may also find it difficult to find jobs that suit them as their abilities are limited. It gets more frustrating when the government that sends one to war does not assist in looking for employment.

In some instances, soldiers suffer from nightmares. Depression is also evident in some soldiers. Depression can be categorized it into three. Sadness depression that results from the losses one experienced in the field, for example, loss of fellow soldiers. This may also come about when soldiers loose a limb due to amputation or as a result of land mines. Anger depression comes about when the soldiers are angry at themselves. Helplessness depression comes about when we feel that we are stuck, and there is no immediate remedy for the situation.

“The Hairy Ape” by Eugene O’Neill

Yank seems quite content with his life working in the stokehole. He claims it to be a man’s job and those who cannot handle it do not belong. Yank takes pride in the stokehole claiming that “dis is home”. He believes he is part of a machine, and he helps it to make the world move. “I’m de end! I’m de start! I start somep’n and de woild moves!” He also believes he is better than the people in the first cabin claiming that they are only baggage.

Yank’s childhood was painful and was filled with constant fighting between his parents. “On Saturday nights when they both got a skinful day could put up a bout oughter been staged at de Garden.” He tells Long that it was so intense that they broke all the furniture and still sent him to church on Sunday. Sometimes both of them would beat him for no apparent reason, and it is from here that he learnt to take punishment. He left home after his mother died from the tremens and received help at “truckin’ and in de market” before being shipped to the stokehole.

Yank works as a coal stoker, a “stoker of de liners.” He is in the lower class of society. This particular class is what determines his culture, financial resources, education and his whole outlook on life.

His lack of education makes it so that he cannot think. He seems to have only primitive instincts like those of an ape that he often calls himself. The chopped and mangled words that characterize his speech make it hard for him to be accepted in any class in the society. When handed the newspaper, while in prison, he admits that he cannot read much. This is why Yank depends on his brute strength. It is his lack of knowledge that ultimately makes it difficult for him to adapt beyond the ship.

When he encounters Mildred, it is the first time he becomes aware of the social gap between the two. “She was all white. I thought she was a ghost. Sure.” This is brought about by her reaction when she saw him and screamed, “Take me away! Oh the filthy beast!” before she faints. It is after this incident that Yank wants to prove to Mildred that he is better than her: that he belongs and she does not. Mildred and her class are a new threat that Yank seems unable to fight with his strength alone. He even begins to think, something that was once a joke to him. “Yes, tink! Tink dat’s what I said! What about it?” However, since force is all he knows, he even contemplates blowing up the Steel Trust just to get even with Mildred. “And I’ll write her a letter and tell her de hairy ape done it. Dat’ll square tings.”

Yank defines belonging as power. In his pursuit for belonging, he is rejected by his fellow firemen, Mildred, the passer-bys on Fifth Avenue, the prisoners at Blackwells Island, the Industrial Workers of the World and finally the gorilla at the zoo. Yank is an outsider, and it is only in death, or when he is locked up in a cage for people to see, that he finally finds where he belongs.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll is friendly, sociable and kind in nature, being described as “the very pink of proprieties” by Mr. Enfield. He has the best interests of man at heart and through science wants to alleviate their sorrow and suffering. He is extremely protective of his appearance in public and fond of the respect of the wise and virtuous among his fellow countrymen. He is a hardworking man and says he was inclined to industry by nature.

Mr. Hyde, on the other hand, is cruel, reckless and indifferent to people’s opinions. Enfield describes him as having “something displeasing, something downright detestable.” This is because Hyde was pure evil and was not commingled out of good and evil like most humans. He is rash and ruthless depicted in his trampling over a girl and the killing of Carew with a cane without prior provocation. It is mentioned that the only thing the two personalities shared was memory, with Hyde being indifferent to the presence of Jekyll.

The difference is not only in their mental and social attributes, but also in their physical attributes. Dr. Jekyll describes himself as having been “endowed with excellent parts. . .” He is also said to be a large, well-made, smooth faced man of fifty. Mr. Hyde is described by Mr. Utterson as being “pale and dwarfish” and giving “an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation.” In his confession, Dr. Jekyll describes this less robust, less developed body, a product of evil that left an imprint of deformity and decay. He mentions the body as being ugly. When Dr. Jekyll turns to Mr. Hyde, he is able to indulge the evil side of his nature. Dr. Jekyll claims that when Hyde is awake, he is “virtue slumbered” meaning that he is not aware of what Mr. Hyde is doing. “Jekyll was no worse; he woke again to his good qualities seemingly unimpaired; …thus his conscience slumbered.” This particular fact scares him. He is also scared by the fact that later, he can no longer control Mr. Hyde with transformations taking place on their own. “Yes, I had gone to bed Henry Jekyll, I had awakened Edward Hyde.” What frightens him the most is the fact that he will soon lose the power of voluntary change and that the character of Hyde would be his forever.

He is attracted to Mr. Hyde because this new being is younger, lighter, and happier in body. It is here that he finds the solution to the bonds of obligation society had upon him, and he also gets an “unknown but not an innocent freedom of the soul.” He knows that this new transformation is “tenfold more wicked” but the idea at the time “braced and delighted me like wine.” He is given an outlet for his shameful desires without having to worry about the consequences. “I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome.” He sees Hyde as being perfect as compared to Jekyll who he refers to as being “imperfect and divided.” In his eyes, Hyde seemed livelier and was more expressed and single.


When it comes to fiction and drama, I would say that I rather much prefer watching them than having to read them. The reason being in the play ‘The Hairy Ape’, the language used by Yank is quite difficult to read, but it would be different if one heard it from actors. Each scene has a particular setting and being able to see these settings helps in the understanding of the play. The same would be said of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Seeing Mr. Hyde’s physical stature and general character goes a long way in the appreciation of such works.


Carlisle, R.P. (2007). Iraq War (J.S. Bowman, Ed.). New York: Infobase Publishing.

Tunc, Hakan. (2005). What Was It All About After All? The Causes of the Iraq War. Retrieved on 17th October 2011 from >http://www.contemporarysecuritypolicy.org/assets/CSP-26-2-Tunc.pdf<