Monday, May 4, 2009

Other Possibilities of a Deferred Dream


Langston Hughes’s poem to starts off A Raisin in the Sun. It explores the different possibilities that can happen when dreams are laid to rest for a while, and having to postpone one's deepest desires can lead to destruction. It is similar to the theme of In Cold Blood, which reveals an important dream or goal that must be delayed can have serious negative affects.

Herbert Clutter served on the Federal Farm Credit Board under President Eisenhower. He is always the community leader, getting involved with many organizations. He possesses a harmonious family with his beloved wife—Bonnie, two older daughters who have moved out, and Nancy and Kenyon. His large property, River Valley Farm, keeps him moderately wealthy. Starting with little, he has built up a large, successful farm. He reaped harvest of his constant hard work. However, his achievements were completely dried up like a raisin in the sun— hard and impossible to eat. No matter how much he attained and gained, his whole life was ended by two robbers who were discontented with the social society and their miserable plight.

Many of us believe that a man without an education is an unfortunate victim of adverse circumstances deprived of one of the greatest opportunities. Neither Perry nor Hickock get that precious opportunity. Perry’s dream festers like a running sore. He wants very much to be educated, and he considers himself quite intelligent and artistic. His childhood was lonely and disorganized. He wanted to get love from his divorced parents and shattered family, but family members’ attitudes toward him made his sore infected and no longer able to heal. He is disgusted with society and wanted to avenge those lucky fellows with fortune. His criminal record seems to be a natural extension of the strange environments in which he grew up, striking back at those who are deferring the dreams.

Hickock, another ruthless murder of the Clutter family, was jailed for passing bad checks. He used to earn wages to support his family in a legal way, like other good citizens who observe disciplines and obey laws. However, he was not satisfied with his ordinary life, with his limitless efforts, and he could not make his ends meet to afford his heavy expenses by his thin-paid work. In other words, since his dreams were not realized in a timely fashion, he lost patience and went to an extreme, which made his dreams like rotten meat giving off horrible odors.

All in all, almost all main characters’ dreams exploded, like bombs explode and cause great destruction. If all the other possibilities of a deferred dream are bad with some worse than others, then the last possibility is the worst. If the person whose dream is deferred loses all hope, he might “explode” with his despair. He might commit suicide, homicide—or both. However, I maintain that both Hughes and Capote want us to give positive motivation and attitude to achieve, to realize our dreams in our real life. Finally, all people must believe in their dreams and do the possible to achieve them because there is no life without dreams.


Kierstin Seminack

This American Life, [episode "House on Loon lake"] told us about the story of three young boys who stumbled across a vacant house one summer and the way that the house affected their lives. Like the adventurous boys who told their story of discovering an abandoned house frozen in time, I too have wandered into a place where I do not belong.

Several years ago when I was still in high school, me and my friends went to an abandoned high school. I do not remember a lot about the building. However, I do remember going on a Saturday afternoon in August, and I remember ivy and vines covering the walls of the building. It was difficult to find an entrance into the building. Something else that comes to mind upon recalling the afternoon walking around Lambertville High is the temperature. It was cold standing within the walls on the vacant building; I remember wishing I had a sweater to wear.

Apparently, the school closed down around the 1990’s because there was a fire, however, the entire building did not burn down. Half of it still remained in tact. From the area we were able to walk around and explore, I felt that the building was eerie. We had done some “research” before we set out to find the abandoned high school and found ghost stories on the internet about it. Of course, that added to the uneasy feelings that the building gave off. However, there was also something about knowing that students my age walked around the same area I was walking around, that gave me a sense of wanting to learn more about what happened and a wanting to be there. It’s a strange feeling to describe, because you feel like you're part of the building when you walk around it, but there is so much history in the walls that I will never know or understand.

I also understand why the one man was saying he felt like the Naisons were watching him as they searched the house, and how he felt like he shouldn’t be in the house. In a way, I felt like we should not have been at the high school. Even though this building was not frozen in time like the Naison house, and few artifacts existed from when the school was last in session in the 1990’s, there was still a feeling that my friends and I were in a place we should not have been.

When you think about everything that exists within a house, and all the physical and emotional contents that a house contains, leaving like the Naisons did has to be extremely difficult. So much goes into making a home. I understand what the mother was saying when she said how sad it was that the house was left behind. That house was home to a family, to their memories, to their personal belongings, and it was left behind and maybe even forgotten. The true story behind the abandonment of the house and the reason for the family leaving may never be discovered. But the fact that this story has been told and shared can at least put some at ease to know a place like this existed.

Generation Gap

Ed Erfan

Many teenagers feel that their parents do not understand them. They feel as if their parents are "from a different world." This is a normal feeling that arises from the generational gap between teenagers and their adult parents. I believe it is not a culture clash but a generational difference. Yet there are teenagers, like me, all over the world who deal with real culture clashes between them and their parents every day. Teenagers from very rigid backgrounds struggle with the burden of a global awareness while dealing with a culture that is very set in its ways. For teens who were born and/or raised in a Western culture but whose parents were raised in an "old country" culture, the cross culture dilemma is a daily reality. I am a prime example of this.

My cultural contact zone came into play when I had to negotiate two different roles; one at home and one with my friends. Firstly, let me start by telling you that I am half Egyptian and half Black. My mother was born and raised in Egypt. My biological father I have yet to speak to since the age of 7. The contact zone and problems, if you may, used to lie within the cultural differences between my mother and me. I find myself trying to explain to her why I do what I do on a daily basis. My mother is strictly traditional. She is a very religious and hard-working individual. She was raised in Alexandria, Egypt by my grandmother and grandfather who are also as she is. During her childhood, she rarely went out especially at night. She did not have a boyfriend or anything of the sort until her first husband, my biological father. Her life sternly consisted of school and family. I respect her dearly for this. At the same time however, she used to try to implicate these features upon me.

Consequently, I had to be one person in front of her and myself around my friends. Around my friends I would act freely. We would talk about girls, parties, and such. These types of things my mother did not approve of. Therefore, around her I had to be her ‘baby boy’ on account of her strict adherence to her Egyptian culture. After a while however, this became a problem. As I grew up and got into my high school years, I desired more freedom and wanted to be myself all the time, even around her. This presented conflict at first, but as time went on things eased up a bit. She learned to ‘let loose’ and started to understand that there is an extreme difference between our childhoods. I guess as she continued to live here in America, she realized the way of life here differed from hers.

I used to find myself constantly arguing with her about going out. Yes, you read correctly, JUST going out! Not going out late or past a certain a curfew, we used to argue about going out at all! Eventually, it became evident that this was becoming a big problem. I wanted to live the American life, whereas she wanted me to live the Egyptian life. I definitely understood where she was coming from; the problem was she did not understand my perspective. So one day after a huge fight over a silly event, we sat down and talked. I had to negotiate my life to her and this is when I was placed in this sort of cultural contact zone. I explained to her that it is common for kids my age to go out, have a girlfriend, drink, party, etc. Of course at first she was not welcoming to this notion at all, but after testing it out a couple of times, she came to accept it.

Nowadays, things are way better. It could be because of the freedom that comes along with college or that she trusts that I am older and am more capable of making better decisions. All I know is I am quite thankful for whatever it is that caused her to realize the situation because it surely relieved me of much stress. Today I get to be me all the time, including when I am around my mother.

Lifestyle Contact Zone

Samantha Johnson

A contact zone, defined by Mary Louise Pratt is a social space in which cultures meet and clash with each other. The best example of a contact zone that I have come across may seem very diminutive, but I feel as though it may fall into the parameters of the slightest, most minute of the that of a cultural clash-- that of my boyfriend’s way of life versus my way of life. My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over two years now, with break-ups here and there, of course. But what seems to be one of our biggest problems is our two drastic ways of life.

Growing up in what you can call a conservative family, I was always raised to try my very hardest through my early academic years. Though I never was one who received money as bribery for straight A’s, I always managed to achieve the honor roll. As I was taught, my long-term goal, which I was expected to fulfill, was to enter into college to continue on with my academics. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are and were very supportive of anything and everything that I wanted to do, but college was something that seemed to be expected of me.

Once I met what would be my future boyfriend, I realized that everything that was ever instilled in my brain was very close to being the polar opposite of what was instilled in his. Ever since his father was small, his family opened a very successful automotive garage. Growing up, his father never stressed the importance of a college degree as did mine. The long-term goal that was expected of him was to one day carry out the business just as his father has for his Grandfather. So, for him school was never a very significant part of his life, as it was and still is in mine. In addition, it seems as though it is very hard to communicate with him about subjects I learn in school. Once again, another lesson I learned while growing up was the desire to learn. My parents always stressed the importance of knowledge, and I came to agree with them when it turned out that I was one of the minority of kids who actually enjoyed school. So nowadays, it seems that my world revolves around writing papers and reading and studying Criminal Justice as it pertains to law; whereas, his world is full of working on cars and reading car magazines. Though this may seem minute, it is our lifestyles that vary so much.

I am now a twenty-year-old sophomore in college, juggling schoolwork and a job. Whereas, he is a twenty-one-year old working full time living at home. Because he works over ten-hour days, and I attend classes roughly three hours a day, the thought of understanding each other's lifestyles seems unimaginable. Of course, I see my lifestyle as being much more difficult than his-- spending hours upon hours of homework a night, and working about twenty hours a week. But all he sees are my occasional naps and fooling around with my roommates. This small contact zone that we encountered continues to be a problem in our relationship. He has come to learn that though my lifestyle may be far different than his, I still have my hardships too. And because I have never worked full-time for more than two months, I have come to reason how tiring and monotonous his workdays are. We have matured to try our very best to explain each other’s lifestyle in hopes that one day they may intertwine. Though many couples may experience this slight contact zone when two people try and have a life together, it seems like the best example I have of trying to translate my way of life to another.

The Pillow

Teneka Weah

I have this pillow that I am absolutely obsessed with. It is made out of feathers and it is grey and black. This pillow is nothing extravagant just a small, simple, square shaped pillow. It is device [by Prown's categories] because it doesn’t do anything, but it serves a purpose when I lay on it. When I was younger I used to suck my thumb and rub on the pillow; I do not know why it just felt good. I do not remember who gave the pillow to me, but I’ve had the pillow for as long as I can remember.

When it would get dirty my uncle used to put a new cover over it and it would look brand new again. I could not go anywhere without this pillow. To this day I keep it in my room and sleep on it; even now I still rub on it because I enjoy the feeling so much. It reminds me of my past and how much I’ve grown up and shows me I am not as mature as I would like to think I am. I no longer suck my thumb but for some reason I cannot let go of this pillow. I do not take it everywhere anymore but it brings back so many good childhood memories.

The pillow reminds me of my uncle very much, and I do not see him anymore because he lives in a different country. I have to keep it clean now because I have no one to put a new cover on it when it gets dirty. It served as a comfort object for me when I was a child, and I believe it still does even today. Sometimes when I cannot sleep at night I will just lay in my bed and rub on the pillow and it would bring me comfort and soothe me. This pillow means a lot to me but the story that I associate with it is my childhood. There are many questions about this pillow that I cannot answer like when, where, why, and who made the pillow, but I believe its story started with me.

The thing that gives this pillow meaning was the fact that my whole family was involved in this pillow’s life. Everyone was so accepting of the fact that I wanted to take it everywhere and would keep an eye on it for me and make sure I would not lose it when I went out. If any one of my family members saw me without the pillow they would go and look for it and bring it to me. My uncle took time from his work to sew me new cases occasionally. The pillow has meaning to everyone in my family also because they know how much I love his pillow. Even now my mother and I would reminisce about my childhood and she would tell me stories about me and this pillow and it also reminds her of my uncle too. I do not know if I will ever be able to part from this pillow.

Cultural Contact Zone

Deanna Pizzi

Because most of my extended family is Italian we have always had certain customs and rituals, especially on holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. At times, some people are a little thrown off by this because it is something they are not used to. I remember last year for Thanksgiving I brought my roommate Katie to our family dinner. Ever since I was born, we always attended Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house, on my dad’s side of the family. And every year all of the same people would be there and to this day we have always sat in specific seats. I don’t think that Katie felt out of place but I could tell that she was somewhat amused by my Italian family. This was probably because of my grand pop. He always talks and talks about stories and lessons and usually after a while my grand mom will tell him to shut-up and leave everyone alone in Italian.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is probably the same as most other American families. We always have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and many other typical Thanksgiving foods. But always on holidays, after dinner, some of the family gathers in the kitchen to take shots of Grappa. My uncle got this bottle from distant family members that live in Italy. I’m not sure what it is actually considered but all I know is it tastes worse than rubbing alcohol. I usually only take one while my uncle and cousins usually take two or three. In the end I think Katie had a good time but was probably just feeling a little out of her usual cultural contact zone.

Another instance happened this year at Christmas day dinner, which now occurs at our family house down the shore with my mom’s side of the family. Even though this side of the family is Italian too, they are much more different than my dad’s side of the family. While my dad’s side of the family is somewhat conservative and quieter, my mom’s side of the family is much more loud and obnoxious. This year my cousin Mark brought his friend to dinner who is African American. At first he was a little surprised at how loud my family actually is. He was also a little surprised at what kind of food we ate. Every Christmas my Aunts always make a special soup that everyone loves. I don’t eat soup so I am usually the odd member of the family. And they also put out fynoik (which looks somewhat like celery but tastes like licorice) and oil. Just like Katie, he seemed a little out of his usual cultural contact zone but soon fell into place.

There are many instances where someone could feel out of their contact zone such as the examples about. But one cultural contact zone that always occurs to me and many other Italians is very specific. In my family we always had pasta for dinner on Sundays. But at this dinner we eat pasta and gravy while many other families eat pasta and sauce. Technically it is the same thing but Italians always call it gravy, not sauce. When I usually get into this debate with other people they say “well what do you put on your mashed potatoes” and I usually answer with the word gravy (even though I do not eat the gravy that you put on mashed potatoes.) But after my reply the person on the other end believes they have won the fight. And in a way they did. But to me, it is something that my culture, as far as I know, has always done. So every time someone brings up the word sauce when referring to eating pasta I just roll my eyes and the debate begins once again.

A Dream Deferred

Jack Badger

In Cold Blood incorporated an interesting blend, or versions, of the American Dream through its composition of vastly different characters. Herb Clutter, a picture perfect representation of contentedness (a synonym in my opinion for the American Dream concept, at least during this time period) was robbed of his dream the very second his world was invaded by Perry and Dick.
Al Dewey’s dream was essentially to obtain a life similar to Herb Clutter’s before his untimely death. Instead of working a job that removed him from the sanctuary of his family, he often fantasized about purchasing a many acre property and retiring to the personal rural scene, much like the Clutter family found themselves accustomed to. Coincidentally enough, Dewey’s dream was stolen the very same night of the Clutter family massacre, for his wife could never live in an isolated region after the security blanket covering the Clutter household was destroyed.

Dick’s adaptation of the American Dream had always been deformed and juvenile. His exploits being chronicled in Capote’s novel are a testament to that. Always craving a life that was out of his reach, and thinking that there had to be a shortcut to achieving life on easy street, Dick never grasped what the American Dream truly represented. If he wanted pointers, he could have asked Herb Clutter, who would have explained to him that hard work and an optimistic, motivated personality would carry him to the Promised Land he so desperately sought, but never really wanted to work for. Instead, he chose to steal it from Herb, a futile action because a Dream can never be taken, especially by force.

It’s difficult to decipher what Perry would consider his American Dream, for his childhood (the time when we learn how to dream) was so full of nightmare, distrust, and evil that derailed his subconscious development, leaving it disfigured and stationary. The rest of his life was spent trying to run away from his past, a quest effectively embodied in Capote’s retelling of the days following that fateful night in the Clutter household. One could relate the events of that night with Perry’s adolescence, both being full of horrors and sins few of us have ever dreamed of.

And, like the life Perry had before the Clutter murders, and the life he had immediately thereafter and up until his execution, each expansive period was characterized by Perry trying to outrun events that would never really leave him. Perhaps his American Dream was to finally, and permanently, evade his past, a feat that ultimately came true in the unfortunate form of his execution.

Langston Hughes’ poem, although in his eyes pertaining to the racist aspects of American society (as the prompt describes), can be juxtaposed to the dreams of the four aforementioned characters of In Cold Blood. Hughes ruminates over the fate of a deferred dream, and in what manner it meets it fate. What this novel explains to us, through the lives of these four characters, is that the American Dream, and realistically any dream in general, can be taken from us without a moments notice, or without a fair opportunity to fight for it. This is what makes a dream so fragile, so delicate, and so worth preserving at all costs.