22 April 2013
The Theme of Change: Langston Hughes and Tupac Shakur The poem “Harlem” by Lanston Huges and the song “Changes” by Tupac Shakur share common themes. Langston’s “Harlem” emphasizes the importance of his dreams that, over time, end up passing unnoticed. Shakur’s “Changes” displays frustration in a lifestyle he feels is partially shaped by racial stereotypes and how that lifestyle could change if long held racial prejudices were reexamined. Both pieces share similar ideas of their dreams for change. Both want a better future for the African-American society. Both feel survival in a racist world can be detrimental. Both try to make changes that go unheard. The first key point in both writings is both speakers display their thoughts about change. Langston first asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred/ Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun” (Hughes 1-3)? Clearly the speaker is referring to problems being put aside to dry up and waste away. In the same way, in Shakur’s “Changes”, he depicts how he wants change in the African-American society, but is forced to live a tumultuous lifestyle because his dream for change is fading away. Shakur writes, “I see no changes. All I see is racist faces. Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races we under…(Shakur 29-31). You see the old way wasn’t working, so it’s on us to do what we gotta do to survive” (Shakur 59-60). Shakur tries to hold on to his dreams, similar to the way Hughes describes his unfulfilled dreams as a festering sore, but fails and lets the negativity take over like a running sore. A second analogy within the two writings the characters express how ignored dreams can turn into rotten or violent things. In the song “Changes” the writer explains how he has a dream for unity to overcome the challenges of the American society and does his best to show the black community there is a better way of living life, but is ignored for so long his dream dissipates and he himself turns to doing what is best for him whether it be wrong or right. “Try to show another way, but they stayin’ in the dope game” (Shakur 42). “And still I see no changes” (Shakur 61). “But now, I'm back with the facts givin' 'em back to you” (Shakur 66). Hughes describes how wants and dreams can be put away and forgotten causing them to “stink like rotten meat” (Hughes 6), meaning it cannot be forgotten altogether; the smell will always dwell among you. “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load” (Hughes 9-10). Both speakers are apparently dealing with similar issues of being weighted down by stressful circumstances. Ultimately, both of these writings explain how they are completely ignored by people. In the poem “A Dream Deferred” ends his questions with, “Or does it explode” (Hughes 11)? Revealing that over time pressure of an issue will build up to its limit and explode; possibly in a negative way. Shakur answers that question, “And as long as I stay black/I gotta stay strapped/And I never get to lay back/Cause I always got to worry 'bout the pay backs/Some buck that I roughed up way back Comin' back after all these years/that's the way it is” (Shakur 75-80). Some dreams deferred end traumatically where death is the final explosion. It is obvious that Langston Hughes and Tupac Shakur feel some-what the same about their dreams. Langston reveals his feelings about the Harlem Renaissance through his poem by asking questions. He gives a clear picture on how if things remain the same between the races it will only lead to violent society. Many years later Tupac Shakur writes how poverty and racism affects the lives African-Americans forcing them to fight back, some, in negative ways. His dream is to have a major change in the American society, to have unity, overcoming the trials and tribulations that rise against them. In the end both writers have the same thoughts about what happens when dreams go deferred.