Hughes and Holiday: "Harlem" and Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

" The drying up of the dream like a raisin suggests that the spirit of someone who is the victim of prejudice experiences a kind of living death, with all vital forces sucked away from his or her sprit like dried fruit. The dream can also "crust over" like something sweet, implying the false face that African-Americans must put on to live in America. (a Raisin in the Sun, the Lorraine Hansberry play that uses a line from the poem as its title, portrays one of the central characters, a chauffer named Walter Lee, as a man filled with rage who must smile and cater to whites in his job).

This contrast between sweetness and reality is even more dramatically depicted in "Strange Fruit," where images of the old, genteel South of Magnolia trees are starkly juxtaposed against the image of a dead, African-American male: "Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, /

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh." The dream that sags like a heavy load in "Harlem" is a living man in "Strange Fruit." "Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze," sings Holiday.

Hughes' poem demands a more intellectual appreciation of the use of figurative language than the song. It also invites the reader, if reading aloud, to enter the world and voice of the speaker of the poem, and to ask him or herself 'why is there oppressive prejudice.' It encourages the reader to respond in a creative and constructive fashion. The song, through its shocking power, strives to use anger and disgust about the lynching as a call to action. But the personalized nature of both works, either the 'everyman' voice of "Harlem" or the observer of "Strange Fruit" who sees a dead man who represents so many of the unjustly killed Black men of the American South, underline how lyricism can be used as a means of social critique.

Works Cited

Allen, Lewis. "Strange Fruit." Lyrics Freak. October 14, 2009.

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/billie+holiday/strange+fruit_20017859.html

Hughes, Langston. "Harlem." Teaching American History. October 14, 2009.

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=640

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Allen, Lewis. "Strange Fruit." Lyrics Freak. October 14, 2009.

http://www.lyricsfreak.com/b/billie+holiday/strange+fruit_20017859.html

Hughes, Langston. "Harlem." Teaching American History. October 14, 2009.

http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=640

Cite This Essay:

"Hughes And Holiday Harlem And" (2009, October 14) Retrieved January 28, 2020, from
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/hughes-and-holiday-harlem-and-18649

"Hughes And Holiday Harlem And" 14 October 2009. Web.28 January. 2020. <
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/hughes-and-holiday-harlem-and-18649>

"Hughes And Holiday Harlem And", 14 October 2009, Accessed.28 January. 2020,
https://www.paperdue.com/essay/hughes-and-holiday-harlem-and-18649