The yearning for a bigger home, a better wardrobe, a cleaner/nicer neighborhood, a good education and the opportunity to pursue one’s dreams are the epitome of the American dream & should be available to everyone. Unfortunately for the Younger family in the late 1950s in Chicago’s Southside, being black created more than just economic problems, but educational, gender and social class problems causing the American dream for blacks to become less obtainable.
Being that February is black history month I decided to dive back into a literary classic from high school that is dramatic & at times a humorous tragedy. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, has us follow the Younger family through their ups & downs of being black in a “white man’s world”. With an insurance payout check on the way dreams become tangible & moving into a home in a nicer neighborhood become reality. Faced with racism, segregation and sudden money loss, the family must choose between succumbing to the “white man” & his way or keeping ones pride, sticking together as a family through thick & thin in pursuit of a better life. No matter who you are, this play is relatable, as all people have at some point experienced hope, loss, family drama & the dream of becoming something more.
This play records the unfair inequalities, segregation & racism black individuals faced throughout American history. It also proves that through families sticking together & keeping the American dream alive within your heart, you too shall overcome
One of my all time favorite plays and classic pieces of literature is The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Miller’s play captures the essence of the contagious and rapid insanity of “witchcraft” hysteria during the years of 1692 and 1693 in Salem, Massachusetts. The Salem Witch Trials were a dark time in American history in which roughly 200 men and women were accused of practicing witchcraft and roughly 20 people were hanged on the accusations. Interesting thing about the Salem Witch Trails is that a lot of the accusations had to do with “witnesses” claiming falsehoods as true and fabricating elaborate stories to seek a desired outcome. Through descriptive character development Arthur Miller takes the readers on a journey back in time to witness the chaos, torture, desperation and despair.
Abigail Williams is a teenage girl who lusts for John Proctor, who is a good Christian farmer and married to Elizabeth Proctor with three sons. In a night of lust John commits the sin of adultery providing Abigail with false hope. Abigail who is young and filled with lust and envy asks Tituba (a slave girl from Barbados) to conjure up spirits to help her get rid of Elizabeth in hopes of becoming John’s new wife. During the night in which Abigail, Tituba, (and two other Christian girls from the town), Betty and Mary head into the woods and dance around in a circle as Tituba sings, Reverend Parris witnesses this and finds it uncouth. The next day Betty (Reverend Parris’s daughter) is ill in bed and will not wake up. Reverend Parris (being a man of God) chooses to look at the “dancing” as the Devil’s worship and that the girls were working for the Devil. (In the modern world of today we tend to look at dancing in the woods as free-spirited fun). Abigail denies she had any part in it and blames it all on Tituba saying that it was Tituba that spoke with the Devil. From this point forward accusations of “I saw”, “she saw”, “she did”, “she didn’t”, “I did” and “I didn’t” are thrown like a ball at a ping pong match.
John Proctor’s wife Elizabeth is convicted of witchcraft because she happened to have a poppet (a doll) with a needle in it inside her home and John is thrown into jail for not knowing all 10 commandments, adultery and saying “God is dead in this town”. The mid-wife Rebecca Nurse is also convicted of witchcraft for helping deliver babies who happened to be still born or die shortly after. (Remember that was common for that time period due to lack of proper medical care). Giles Corey is crushed to death by stones for neither denying or agreeing to committing witchcraft stating the famous phrase “more weight” choosing to die with his pride and his name intact.
Through these accusations and ultimate deaths of many of the characters, Arthur Miller eloquently displays how men at that time used religion as a means of control to achieve a desired outcome. They used the fear of God to persuade people to conform whether they wanted to or not, which is against the true meaning or message of Christianity. The Crucible’s strong undertone proves how corrupt man’s spirit can be despite religious affiliation and how righteous a man’s spirit can be even if he has committed sin. Witchcraft be only the icing on top of this cake.
In the event that you haven’t absorbed this play yet, please consider it a must read and place it on your “to be read” list as it is written beautifully and touches upon human characteristic flaws and how if provided a spark everything will ignite. Remember, history does repeat itself. Read, learn and be aware. Happy reading. (5 stars)
The Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood was originally published in 1985 but touches the reader as though it was written today. This well written novel of a dystopian society scarily coincides with what takes place with women’s rights and politics today.
Ofred (the main character) is a handmaid and lives in what is essentially America, but is extremely micro-managed by the religiously extreme government entitled the Republic of Gilead. This Republic divides women into classes of legitimate or illegitimate. Legitimate women are then classified as either wives, daughters, handmaids, aunts, marthas and econowives. The illegitimate women are classified as either unwomen or jezebels. The handmaids are women who have voluntarily (or should I say involuntarily) offered themselves as basically sex slaves, but not for sex, but rather to consistently reproduce for the “wives” they are assigned to. That’s right, if a woman is considered fruitful “blessed be the fruit” she is called a handmaid and then is assigned to a wife and husband (or commander) who are not. The handmaid is basically a surrogate and serves no other purpose is life but that. The process to become impregnated is torturous to read and feels more like rape. The handmaid is to lie in bed with her head on top of the wife’s pelvic bone, hold the wife’s hands and then allow the husband of the wife to penetrate her (the handmaid). While reading this I actually said out loud “did it really just say that?!”.
Once a handmaid produces a child for the family, she is considered highly valuable and is sent to another family to do the same thing. Once a handmaid can no longer reproduce (whether she hits menopause or not) she is essentially sent out to pasture. Does Ofred remain trapped in this society or does she manage to escape to freedom in what is today’s Canada? Does she give birth or is she sent away as a useless woman?
Written with such raw depths of emotion and confusion, this novel is at times curious, relentless, humorous, downright torturous and terrifying while ironically providing a sense of optimism. Margaret Atwood’s ending to the story leaves the reader unknowing while knowing everything. The Handmaid’s Tale is such a predominate piece of literature that it is considered a classic and must-read for men and women, young and old. I highly recommend this novel, for it surely will leave you stunned and breathless.