Attentive Resistance

ENGL210 Introduction to Creative Writing

Blog Reflection – Brooks & Hughes in conversation

After reading Gwendolyn Brooks’ “kitchenette building” (1945) and Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” (1951) in class today, how do you see Hughes’ poem entering into conversation with Brooks’? How are the common themes differently interpreted in each?  Identify specific places in the texts to explain your answers. Please respond in three to five sentences.

17 thoughts on “Blog Reflection – Brooks & Hughes in conversation

  1. Both “Kitchenette Building” and “Harlem” have examples of imagery within them, but different ways of showing it. In Hughes poem, he shows this all throughout the poem, describing how a dying dream is like a raisin in the sun or like a sore, while in Brooks poem, imagery is shown through actions, showing how dreams flutter or make giddy sounds. Both of these poems have different themes that are build off of dreams. In terms of Harlem, Hughes describes how dreams (when forgotten) can be described in a negative stance, but then shows that dreams can be saved. This is shown in “Crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet”. This has shown that dreams can be saved and remembered, as shown in “crust and sugar over” like it getting preserved. In Kitchenette Building, dreams are shown to be taken in more of a deeper and more controversial perspective. Brooks is shown to talk about dreams at first in a misogynistic tone and is shown through “feeding a wife”, but is then turned into a way to think of dreams better way. In these poems, both poets describe dreams in their own different ways and have different views of both.

  2. Both Brooks’ and Hughes’s poems involve exploration into the role of an unfulfilled dream in the lives of people who are prevented from realizing it. Brooks’ poem personifies the dream into an entity that can sing or must be kept clean and warm — that quietly compels the speaker to care for it. While Hughes’s dream is depicted as an object, a thing that can stink, fester, or sag. Both poems examine the role of the dream from the perspective of a person who is marginalized by larger social forces — women as the subject of domestic obligation and the black population of systematic oppression over centuries.

  3. After reading “kitchenette building” by Gwendolyn Brooks alongside “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, there are significantly noticeable similarities and differences called to attention. They both have themes revolving around dreams, and both poems seem to have the opinion that said dreams are not actually attainable. For example, Hughes writes, “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load. / Or does it explode?”. Hughes does not even ponder that conquering a dream is even possible. He immediately considers it unattainable, and writes of the ways it could go wrong, not any of the ways it could go right. Then Brooks writes, “‘Dream’ makes a giddy sound, not strong / Like “rent”, “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”” Brooks also introduces a dream as something unattainable and unrealistic, whereas “rent”, “feeding a wife” and “satisfying a man” are all very realistic, or as Brooks says, “strong” possibilities. However, as for differences, Brooks writes about how the narrator is afraid to even let the dream in, while Hughes actually does let the dream into the narrator’s thoughts to ponder the dream’s potential.

  4. In both poems there is a concurrent idea of the “American dream”. In the poem by Brooks it is a bit more evident, when she uses the phrases “Dream”, “rent”, and “feeding a wife”. Relating to how every person who migrated to the United States during that era had the simple goal of supplying for their family. In the poem “Harlem”, by Hughes it is a bit more difficult to see explicitly how he would be relating to the idea of the “American dream”. However, in my opinion the underlying idea of the entire poem is that many people who strove for that ideal American life had their dreams “dry up /like a raisin in the sun”. They had high aspirations, yet when it came to the reality of the situation, not everyone made it to that state of living the “American dream”.

  5. Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” enters into conversation with Brooks’ “Kitchenette Building” by interpreting the reality of inaccessible dreams and goals during their history. Hughes makes this approach by questioning what happens to postponed dreams by using metaphor, simily and imagery. “Does it stink like rotten meat?/Or crust and sugar over–/like a syrupy sweet?”(5-7). Similarly, Brook’s poem contains comparison with the pleasant and hopeful sensation of “Dream” and ghe distractful, forcwful, and stressful everyday-life. “But could a dream send up through onion fumes/Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes/And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall” (3-5). Brook approaches this idea with the use of personificationand sensory description in form of comparison.

  6. Both poets are highlighting how a dream can become forgotten. Brooks poem hides it a bit more and on the first read of her poem you might overlook the dream aspect, but Hughes is more in your face about it. They both use deep imagery. In Brooks poem, a “ “Dream” makes a giddy sound” (2) but in Hughes, it explodes. Hughes poem could be seen as a continuation of Brooks poem, at the end of Brooks poem the speaker’s dreams are deferred when they are no longer thinking about it, but rather of getting to take a lukewarm shower. The longer a dream has deferred the condition of the dream gets worse, finally it explodes. Once the dream has exploded there is no way of returning to it since it has been destroyed.

  7. In both Hughes’s and Brook’s poems, the two authors speak about stagnancy in fulfilling their dreams in their individual lives, due to the curveballs and upheavals of life, including the racial and gender stereotypes in society at the time, being important factors in halting. Some examples of this from both texts, are as written; “‘Dream’ makes a giddy sound, not strong / Like “rent”, “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.” The author is saying that dreaming is unimportant, unrealistic, and foolish, and maybe impossible. The day to day expectations, such as satisfying a man, is a lot more practical, than having a dream, since during the 1960’s when this poem was written, a woman’s role was to be subservient to her husband and to “stay in the kitchen, and only speak when spoken too.” For Hughes, a dream to him, is seen as something that cannot be obtained. For it is only something that can capsize in a variety of ways, such as, “stinking, festering, or sagging.” To Langston, a dream is not something that is mentally, physically, or visually tangible. Both poems show how both authors, think that the dreams they want for themselves are not possible, due to the misogynistic and racial oppressions of society during that time period.

  8. Both poems share the theme of attainable dreams being unfulfilled or recognized and the subsequent feeling of upset that undoubtedly follows. Harlem is more direct with its descriptions of a ‘dream deferred’, personifying the feelings of despair, underachievement, hollowness, and rage one would feel about an opportunity denied to them. kitchenette building reads more of an individual’s thoughts on the life they missed out on, a reflection on their dissatisfaction. kitchenette building could be a work that reflects the dream that dries up like a raisin in the sun (2), or sags like a heavy load (9-10), a dream that slowly wilts away under the pressures of daily life and restraints, as the speaker often implies they do not have the time to even pursue their dreams, and is afraid to do so either from a fear of failure or mockery (“Even if we were willing to let it in”(8).

  9. Both Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Kitchenette Building” touch upon the theme of unobtainable dreams. Although the specificity of those dreams vary there’s still a common longing and dissatisfaction in both of the poems. Brooks describes her dream as “Grayed in, and gray,” yet it also “makes a giddy sound (Brooks 2).” In this poem the speakers dream has begun to fade, warranting a grey coloring, but the thought of it still eclipses anything else in her daily life. While in contract the speaker in Hughes’ poem has wanted his dream for so long the very idea of it has begun to loose its shape. In the start of the poem, the very first line “What happens to a dream deferred? “(Hughes 1) sets the tone of the entire piece, signifying that loss of hope of ever having that dream fulfilled, and making us question the result of that cast away or ignored dream. In both poems the speakers yearn for something they simply can’t seem to grasp, and they’re left to wonder how their lives would change with it fulfilled.

  10. In the poems “Harlem” and “kitchenette building”, both Hughes and Brooks explore the topics of unfulfilled dreams and desires, and how hard it is to cope with the failure of achieving these dreams, along with the hope of the new one being successful. Some examples of these are shown through the lines “Since Number Five is out of the bathroom, / we think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.” (Brooks 12-13) and “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load.” (Hughes 9-10), The image of the bathroom that Brooks brings up reflects an idea of someone throwing it away in the hopes that the new one, the ‘lukewarm water’ will be able to bring the dream to fruition. Hughes looks at it with a much more sour approach, comparing the failed dream to a ‘heavy load’, letting it weigh the speaker down, and leaving them helpless to the everpresent reminder that the dream is and forever will be a failure.

  11. Both Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks in their poems speak about their perspective on dreams and what happens to it if it is not fulfilled. Even though it is not directly stated, the theme of the “American Dream” seems to stand out the most in “Kitchenette Building” and “Harlem”. Brooks writes “Like “rent,” “feeding a wife,” “satisfying a man.”” The things that Brooks lists are all characteristics of a household following the American dream. In Brooks poem she talks about Dreams by personifying household objects and tasks in order to explain what can happen to dreams that are followed or in most cases not. Hughes on the other hand lists options, he knows that no dream is the same for everyone and most people have different reasons for not following them. Hughes writes “Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?/Or fester like a sore-/And then run?” The choice of tone and language that Hughes uses makes his work sound more like a list of possibilities. Even though both poet touch on the same perception of dreams their delivery is different.

  12. Dream of a better life being the central idea in both,“kitchenette building” (1945) by Gwendolyn Brooks and “Harlem” (1951) by Langston Hughes,
    “To dream is very time consuming, we are too busy and concerned about a hot shower at this moment.” “but if you think of just this moment and keep putting off your dream for a better life, what do you think will happen? will someone not get tired of just hoping to shower in a hot water for THAT day and want it for every day.” this is how a conversation would look like between the two poems. In 1945 Brooks’ poem’s speaker saying we do wonder at times but we just wont do anything about it (Anticipate a message, let it begin? We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!). Hughes poem says, people of Harlem tried putting it off, but came to a point that they just exploded, (Or does it explode?).

    –Mursal Sediqi

  13. Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Kitchenette Building” and Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” both enter into a conversation based on dreams. In “Kitchenette Building” Brooks says, “Even if we were willing to let it in / Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,” (8-9). This refers to the dream the narrator mentions in the beginning of her poem, they wonder what was to happen if they nurtured their dream and perhaps make it a reality. They wonder this, but does not wonder for too long because of other circumstances that seem to happen within their lives. Hughes mentions a similar theme in his poem, “Harlem”, but introduces it differently. Hughes says, “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun,” (1-3). Hughes wonders what results in a dream that is postponed. He wonders if hit festers and dies, or whether it explodes. Contrasting to Brooks’ poem, Hughes has a reoccurring wonder of a dream dying because it is not being fulfilled. Both narrators in each poem create dreams they become curious about, yet do not know whether to approach them or not.

  14. Juliette’s Reflection

    In both “Kitchenette building” by Gwendolyn brooks and “Harlem” by Langston the concept of dreams are deeply explored and compared in similar manners. In “Harlem” two of the main comparisons are related too food items going bad or past their prime. The crusting of a sugary substance, and the further drying of an already dry raisin. While in “kitchenette building” food is being personified, describing a dream that can “send up through onion fumes”. Both poems use comparisons to food to describe dreams. While kitchenette uses it with relation to cooking, Harlem uses it in relation to rotting and decay. Both poems use food, but establish different meanings or tonal positions. Kitchenette over all has a more positive ending while Harlem is more ambiguous.

  15. Stephen’s Reflection

    The poems “Kitchenette Building” by Gwendolyn Brooks and “Harlem” by Langston Hughes were both written during a time when how much you got paid a week was enough to buy a hotdog and soda. It also gives a sense that both speakers could be remembering their childhood, growing up in the Great Depression. All you had was a dream. Either the dream evaporated into thin air or it crusted over and possibly got ugly and exploded. Or if you were one of the lucky ones your dream became your reality.

  16. Gwendolyn Brooks’s “Kitchenette Building” and Langston Hughes’s “Harlem” are poems both published in the 1960s; both discusses and challenges the idea of the American dream for black people.

    In “Harlem,” the speaker questions the American dream deferred that black people are prevented from achieving due to white oppression. Hughes uses various metaphors to question how this dream will transform through years of racism.

    In “Kitchenette Building,” the speaker is a woman whose dream is deferred by her life as a wife living in an extremely cramped home as a result of racial discrimination towards black people in poverty. Like in “Harlem,” the speaker questions how the dream will evolve for black Americans, and in her case, for a black woman. Will the dream fade and dry up? Will it fester and rot? Will the dream be a burden? Will it explode and destroy? Will it ever be fulfilled?

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