Literary Analysis


“Living the American Dream”

We Americans probably live the richest life compared to any other country. Other countries experience poverty, strict governments, and lack of proper education. Most of us currently live the American Dream, which many people want. The American Dream is subjected to owning a clean house with land. Edwidge Danticat’s “A Wall of Fire Rising”, and Langston Hughes poems, “I, too, sing America” and “Harlem” all correlate to living the American Dream. “A Wall of Fire Rising” revolves around the lives of three fictional characters, Guy, Lili, and little guy. In this story, these two loving parents try to give their son the best chance possible to succeed in life. Guy, the caring father, expresses many times throughout the story he would like to start a “new life”. His dream ends up costing him his life as the story’s climax comes to an end, when he jumps off the hot air balloon. His actions make us skeptical, springing uncertainty among the readers, making him look selfish and greedy.

Guys final actions and Hughes poems present a good question, What is the true meaning of the American Dream? Knowing the Haitian society at the time, Guy’s family lived through poverty as he expresses his mortality for freedom. They lived in cluttered shelters, slept on dirt, and struggled for food. Knowing and reading the awful conditions of their lives, we could infer why Guy actually did this greedy stunt. We could also infer why Langston Hughes lived a dream, when he was a slave being hidden from company at dinner time and kept around only for chores. Guy wanted a better life for his son and wanted him to start working right away. The story stresses that little guy’s education was more important than being enrolled on a job list at the sugar mill. We get the impression that Guy might be jealous that little guy will surpass him. He wanted him to work over school even though a job still isn’t guaranteed. Guy’s actions could be memorable to his son by standing up for what you believe in, as revolutionary leader, Boukman did. The play’s speeches represent freedom and equality, which was the lesson Guy wanted to live. Hughes also presents a question, What happens to a dream deferred? Hughes lived in the time of slavery and wanted the same rights as everyone else. He probably though about living a lie and questions his own dreams.

Guy’s final actions could be portrayed as a desperate get away from poverty and hopelessness however, that does not display the Guy we read about through the story. We know how strong his relationship to the family was. The society around him is suppressed as hopeless and dark. We also know that Hughes was depressed by that same dark feeling of failure and overlooked. Guy’s family struggled for food as we read about Lili’s methods for “killing the vermin in the stomach that made poor children hungry” (58). Also Hughes stated in his poem, “And eat well, And grow strong.” We know their background that food is limited and shelter is poor but this will only make them stronger.

While Guy’s and Hughes life’s are full of despair, it is also connected with a lot of hope and perseverance. Guy’s hope and inspiration is powered by the powerful readings his son presents the whole time and Hughes is powered by “tomorrow” as he calls it. Lili states Lili states “Your are here to protect me if anything happens” (151). It shows Guy’s will take care for his family and at night “everyone has eaten enough to put all their hunger vermin to sleep” (150). Guy’s family keeps him going to preserver through the hardships of life and that he can talk to his wife when needed. Reading through the speeches and knowing guy, he had a similar life to Boukman:

“A Wall of Fire rising and in the ashes, I see the bones of my people. Not only those people whose dark hallow faces I see daily in the fields, but all those have gone ahead to haunt my dreams. At night I relive once more the last caresses from the hand of a loving father, a valiant love, a beloved friend” (149).

Reading this we see how similar Guy’s life was compared to Boukman. As in “Harlem”, Hughes compares his dreams to a “dried raisin in the sun” or a “festered runny sore.” In, “I, too sing America”, he says “tomorrow, I’ll be at that table.” Both Guy and Hughes lives their lives around hope and perseverance.

Hughes’s “Harlem” and Danticat’s “A Wall of Fire Rising” could be seen as depressing but motivational. It seems that Guy had completed his dream to fly the balloon but realized it wasn’t what he thought it was. It could have possibly gave him the feeling of  a letdown and failure. As in Hughes’s poem, he asks if a dream is syrupy sweet?, or does it sag like a heavy load. He questions the hope of a dream into becoming a reality just like Guy did. But then he asks, Or does it explode? meaning the dream is a lie. As Langston compares dreams to the process of a sore, he willingly suggest to the readers that actions make dreams.

Danticat’s writing is such a let down and doesn’t quite make sense to why Guy’s dreadful action was so heroic and understandable to the readers and his family. Stealing the balloon can be viewed as heroic for freedom and to “live freely or die” like Boukman did. As compared to Guy, Hughes waited patiently for the movement towards freedom before “They’ll see how beautiful he is.”

Reviewing all three of these writings and researching many social issues, the term “American Dream” is yet again pointed out to the sense of the readers. Hughes describes living it as well as Guy did in “A Wall of Fire Rising.” It is amazing to realize how these works have inspired others to take stands and preserver through any  hardships. Now anyone can live this American Dream and “sing, too America.”

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