Deferment can be said to be the art of postponing something and not cancelling the same. The short story by Toni, The Lesson, generally revolves around several characters. However, the narration is the first person by Toni Cade Bambara. On the other hand, the poem, Harlem, by Langston Hughes depicts an African American who seems disillusioned by the state of national affairs and the waning of hope for a better life.
In this critical analysis of the two literature works, I seek to assess the viability of how people respond when society tries bringing down people. This poses the question; will people believe what they have very little to no influence on society as a whole when they are oppressed causing further frustration? The likely answer is that they will either persevere the frustration, or rise and eradicate their tormentors. Moreover, the theme of this analysis is to justify the theme that society will try to put down those who are already down hence causing further frustration.
Points of comparison:
African American segregation
Toni, in his assertions, depicts a notion of racism in the country at the time; he describes Miss Moore as being ‘as black as hell’. Moreover, Rosie Giraffe mumbles “white folks crazy” when confronted with a question hence underlining the notion of racial animosity between blacks and the whites. Miss Moore complains and laments (frustration) of how money was not rightfully divided in the country. Often more than once, Flyboy is pitied against his white colleagues who enquire about his home. The only way he puts them off is through saying that he has none. This shows that many blacks were homeless, and their white counterparts did not experience the same. On the other hand, the poem by Langston Hughes is too condensed to the extent that discrimination is not explicitly portrayed.
On the other hand, the poem Harlem, by Hughes, depicts the thoughts of an African American who seems to have lost hope, and gotten confused. This is because the American dream is full of opportunities and fulfilment, but the blacks seem not to experience such promises.
The tone of frustration seems to have been explicitly outlined in the two documents. Toni’s frustration seems to be centrally focused on individual interests. Toni is frustrated by Miss Moore’s teasing that they don’t (Toni and his colleagues) know what money is. This is a clear undermining factor which she feels proudly explained.
Moreover, the presence of Miss Moore seems to be a frustration to the students. She is described as keeping his eye keenly on the students like mama Drewery watches the sky. Toni seems to be frustrating Sugar not to air out his feelings. This is a depiction of frustration of those who want to rise up against the suppression, by their own. Furthermore, the black American depicted in Hughes’s, Harlemseems to be highly frustrated by discrimination and inequalities that make the attainment of the promises of the American dream quite impossible for him. This is the reason why he poses all the rhetorical questions in the short poem. I.e. ‘what happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up sun? Does it stink like rotten meat?’
The dream in Toni’s short story revolves around the attainment of personal goals and achievements such as buying toys, being able to put food on the table, etc. The dream in Hughes’ poem is mainly about the promises that America offers i.e. prosperity and a better life for all, the American dream. Langston Hughes seeks to analyse the effects of deferring a dream through a series of rhetorical questions.
In general, it can be noted that Hughes does not speak about the history of a specific differed dream, but he simply talks any illusionary dream which has been postponed. He assesses the potentiality of the dream fading out in value, significance and finally dying.
Points of contrast
Self realization emerges between Toni Cade and Sugar when they found themselves staring in each other’s eyes. Miss Moore also seems to have a self assertion that people like her have their achievements being defined by their personality and their place/status in society. This statement is a double edged sword that could mean that the blacks like Fly boy cannot afford the toys displayed because the blacks are poor. This highlights an element of discrimination. She however, enlightens the guys like Toni to rise against inequality and unequal distribution of the larger national cake. Sugar also exposes inequality at the time by telling Miss Moore that the cost of buying a simple toy at the store is not only beyond the reach of the many, but it is also more than enough to feed them in a year. This also depicts how much she has been enlightened. She realizes that the only way to overcome such inequality is through empowering the majority who are the speaker uses a simile, ‘does it stink like poo. On the other hand, self realization in Hughes’ poem has not been conclusive as compared to Toni’s literary work. This is because the persona seems to ask too many questions that seem to have confused him hence implying that he has not yet discovered how to realize his dream.
The commonality in all the characters discussed by Toni is that they all seem to be poor, and from a lower class because they cannot afford any of the items in the toy store. Moreover, QT says, ‘must be rich people shop here’.
The class society is depicted in Hughes’ poem through the last line where he talks of an explosion. The deprived(have-nots) will therefore rise against (explode) something. Considering that one cannot rise against an in class than them even though she existent situation, it definitely means that there exists a direct opposite group to those suppressed (a class of the haves).
This signifies that there exists a class society in the persona’s country. This is generally between the rich white and the poor black. The contrast however is that in Toni’s short story, differences exist between the poor blacks themselves too. For example, Toni Mocks Miss Moore of how she wears no makeup. Moreover, Miss Moore teases June bug and his colleagues of how their homes lack calendars, assertion, talked behind her ‘like a d yet she is a black herself too. Perhaps she is in a different class than them even though she is black.
Imagery, Toni uses the following assertion, talked behind her ‘like a dog’. It is ironical to find that the narrator and his like hated Miss Moore, yet they never turned down any of her good things she carried along such as home baked gingerbread. He also uses imagery in the sense that he talks of one Fat Butt whom he describes as being a pig (probably because he is fat); moreover, Rosie giraffe from Georgia seems to have been alluded to her height. Mercedes seems to be tidier than the rest. Seems the image is alluded to the Mercedes Benz car. Lastly, Flyboy seems to have originated from his lack of a permanent shelter. Moreover, Hughes equates a deferred dream to a raisin (dried grape like fruits). This means that the dream has potential of experiencing a ‘slow death’. However, he could also be alluding to the play, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, whose theme revolves around the deferred dreams of a certain black family living in Chicago in the 50s.
On the contrast, the speaker uses the image of the wound to show us that the ghosts of a deferred dream will always come to haunt us. They cannot go away completely.
Furthermore, the speaker uses simile, ‘does it stink like rotten meat?’ This is aimed at emphasizing the fact that a delayed dream will always frustrate us. Such a dream, as he supposes, should therefore be totally eradicated or ignored (but ignoring won’t stop the frustration). Moreover, Miss Moore asks an ironical question as to how the homes of the kids look like yet according to Toni, ‘she nosy`s around in them every chance she gets’. Hughes also compares such dreams to sweet things in his rhetoric, line 7. Lastly, he warns of the dreams sagging hence signifying how weighty they are. Lastly, explosion in the last line signifies the potential of deferred dreams to develop intrinsic energy that is likely to generate huge changes.
After analysing the two sets of literature works, it can be deduced that the tone of frustration sounds music in all of the two. However, the frustration with Toni’s short story tends to be more centred on individual issues, and issues that arise from a micro section of the society.E.g. Not being able to afford toys and food. On the other hand, frustration in Hughes’ poem are caused by national and macro sections of the society such as economic segregation and inequality. Moreover, the solutions to the frustrations seem to be more explicit in the short story as compared to the poem.
Bambara, T. C. (1939). The Lesson. The short story , 8-13.
Gardner, J. E. (2013). Literature: A Portable Anthology (Third Edition ed.). (R. Theodore, Ed.) Boston: Bedford.
Hughes, L. (1994). Harlem. poetry foundation , 1.
Hughes, L. (1990). Selected poems of Langstone Hughes. New York: Random House Inc.
Leila, N. (2012). The Lesson. An African American Study of “The Lesson”, Toni Cade Bambara's short story J.R.Hellier. (2003). Toni Cade Bambara’s Use of African American Vernacular English in The Lesson. Fall.