Wednesday, March 20, 2013

American Dream: The Great Gatsby and A Raisin in the Sun

The American Dream plays a crucial role in both the Great Gatsby and a Raisin in the Sun, after all, the things that happen in each novel happens as a direct result of the characters trying to accomplish certain goals and achieve certain things; their American Dreams. Even though this dream is present in both novels, it is showcased in different ways. In the Great Gatsby, the American Dream is personified, as it is present in the form of a person; Daisy Buchanan. Jay Gatsby comes from a poor family which motivated him to search for a better life; a life superior to the poverty stricken one he was accustomed to. Eventually, Gatsby rose to the top of wealth, but his mission was only halfway complete. Making up for his poor childhood came in second to Daisy as his main reason for acquiring this wealth. The money was never his real dream; it was merely a step closer to acquiring his actual dream which was to have the lovely Daisy at his side. He used his wealth to compete with Tom Buchanan. Ultimately, Gatsby’s “American dream” was unsuccessful as he never won Daisy over, and instead she stayed with Tom. This was symbolized by the green light going out. 
In a Raisin in the Sun, the characters American dream is more stereotypical when compared to the Great Gatsby. They dream of simply living a better life than the one they have, even though the majority of their definitions of a better life are different. For example, Mama and Ruth dream of owning their own house in a better neighborhood and getting the family out of their current unsatisfying living situation while Beneatha dreams of getting an education, becoming a doctor and not being dependent on men for anything she needs. Each of their specific dreams is different but it all falls in the same category of wanting a better life. At that time, the stereotypical American dream, which is what kind of dream Mama and Ruth had, was very materialistic. The prosperous people displayed their wealth with material things, whether it be clothes, a house, or cars and so the Youngers, who had never had any of those things, dreamed of having a plethora of materialistic things just like the wealthy people which is why Mama and Ruth wanted a new house. Beneatha’s dream was more selfish, as she was mainly concerned with herself but like everyone else, her dream in general was to live a better life than the one she has.  
When compared, the two novels are similar on some levels but then very different on others. They are similar in the fact that Jay Gatsby and Mama, Ruth, Walter and Beneatha all wanted wealth and all of their American dreams, if completed, would've filled a void in their life. If Gatsby had gotten Daisy to fall in love with him, that would have removed the lonely feeling in his life and he would have finally been able to fit in with the other wealthy people, and also he would have a satisfied love life, which is what he wanted. The Youngers used their wealth to make up for the poverty they had experienced for the majority of their lives. The difference is though, the characters in a Raisin in the sun, valued wealth more as opposed to Gatsby. Gatsby had all of the money in the world but it was no use without Daisy.
While both novels had some similar dreams and aspects, they differed on the importance of certain things which is all the American dream is. The American dream is different for different individuals, it’s all just based on what you truly value in life and what you ultimately hope to accomplish.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Protest Song

Nina Simone - Mississippi G****m

The name of this tune is Mississippi G****m
And I mean every word of it
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi G****m [x2]
Can't you see it
Can't you feel it
It's all in the air
I can't stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer
Alabama's gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about Mississippi G****m
This is a show tune
But the show hasn't been written for it, yet
Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every day's gonna be my last
Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don't belong here
I don't belong there
I've even stopped believing in prayer
Don't tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying "Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
Washing the windows
"do it slow"
Picking the cotton
"do it slow"
You're just plain rotten
"do it slow"
You're too d**n lazy
"do it slow"
The thinking's crazy
"do it slow"
Where am I going
What am I doing
I don't know
I don't know
Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about Mississippi G****m
I made you thought I was kiddin'
Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say it's a communist plot
All I want is equality
for my sister my brother my people and me
Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And you'd stop calling me Sister Sadie
Oh but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying "Go slow!"
"Go slow!"
But that's just the trouble
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Mass participation
"do it slow"
"do it slow"
Do things gradually
"do it slow"
But bring more tragedy
"do it slow"
Why don't you see it
Why don't you feel it
I don't know
I don't know
You don't have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about Mississippi
Everybody knows about Alabama
Everybody knows about Mississippi G****m
That's it!

I chose this song because it is a very inspirational tune, with some even calling it the “most effective American protest song.” This song was conceived in response to the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four African-American girls and to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers, killed by the Klu Klux Klan. Evers was the NAACP field secretary in Mississippi. This song protests the discrimination in America during the Civil Rights movement. When this song was made, Nina Simone was a civil rights activist, strongly fighting for the equal rights of her fellow African Americans. The injustices that plagued the United States during the 1900’s were killing Simone’s people and directly affecting her life as she says that she thought everyday was going to be her last. This tune is a very straight-forward one, as Simone doesn’t hide anything or use any symbols to cover up what she really feels: “Oh but this whole country is full of lies/You’re all gonna die and die like flies/I don't trust you anymore.” She also directly addressed certain states such as Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi in the lines: “Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi G****m.” On this record, she criticizes the common argument at the time that civil rights activists and African Americans should "go slow" and make changes in the United States little by little: “Keep on sayin' 'go slow' do things gradually would bring more tragedy. Why don't you see it? Why don't you feel it? I don't know, I don't know.” This anger-filled tune was so controversial that it was banned in many states, including the ones it attacked. Regarded as one of her most popular protest songs, it became a civil rights activist anthem. Simone’s message was simple and clear: “You don't have to live next to me, just give me my equality!”