fiction in comparison to poetry and drama by drawing upon specific examples from the poem- “Summer Solstice in New York” by Sharon Olds and of drama from a Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. In this essay, we will discuss what are features that define the different genres. Also, we will examine their different strengths and weaknesses.
Poetry and drama share much in common. The main difference is in the length and depth of the examination of the dramatic elements. However, due to the shortness of poetry, much is left to the imagination of the reader via metaphor. Even the title is used to set up the scenery for the reader to interpret. In the opinion of the author, this leaves a staccato effect that can leave the reader grasping for the details that can be gotten more easily in a more developed plot line that is featured in drama.
As an example, Sharon Olds’ “Summer Solstice, New York City” is a testimony to the chaotic nature of the city. However she takes the time to bring up some intense imagery that serves as a contradiction to her character, a suicidal man. In every line of the poem, the reader is met with images such as “soft, tarry surfaces” and “red, glowing ends.” It is an interesting comparison. The man has such a bleak life and wants to remove himself from the cityscape is incapable of appreciating the beauty around him. It seems like the poem should just focus on the suicidal man, but this is not so. Rather, there is a detailed discussion of the other people around him, mainly the police. There is much imagery of bulletproof vests to protect a father who is a policeman and the cops’ trying to save the suicidal man. Rather than focusing upon the suicidal man’s reactions, the reader sees the policemen calm him down and hold him up to preserve his life and dignity. Even the title of the poem has irony. When seeing the title “Summer Solstice, New York City,” one could expect to encounter sweet poetic with children and couples holding hands. Rather, Olds chooses to go against the standard by including imagery that takes on an entirely different concept. She does this by discussing the man’s suicide attempt on a beautiful day. One is left only to imagine why he wanted to kill himself. All of the above attributes come together in Olds’ poem successfully (Field & Locklin, 1992, xvii).
The imagery is similar in a Raisin in the Sun. Like the Langston Hughes poem, it is about dreams deferred. The question is whether the heat of desire causes them to sweeten and turn into a pleasant thing or to fester and turn into something like a sore. The question of what the life insurance check will be spent on drives the conflict between Walter Lee and Mama and is the center of the plot. This debate represents a fight over materialism and integrity. However, the full implications of Walter’s desires must be grasped to perceive the deeper levels of the debate. Wilkerson speaks about a restored scene of the play scene “which is key to this understanding. Inserted at the end of Act 11, Scene 2, the scene shows a brief moment between Walter and his young son, Travis. Walter, who has just been entrusted with the remaining $6,500 by his mother and who sees his dream of economic success within his grasp, speaks in a tender tone not heard before from him (Wilkerson, 1986, 445-446).” In this scene, Walter’s son understands the motivations behind the conflict and that Walter’s fixation was not just upon the physical, but upon deeper things as well. Like the suicidal man in Summer Solstice, we cannot see specifically what is making him tick. As J. Charles Washington notes, there is a prophetic significance to Walter that drives the play and gives us clues as to the deeper meanings (Washington, 1988, 112).
In the opinion of this author, the drama is a stronger genre because it allows a longer and more in-depth examination of the characters. Poetry is very short and can leave the reader grasping for details. However, poetry allows for a more focused “snapshot” of events. A well written poem can convey a lot of information in a short period of time and leaves the reader more room for interpretation. Both genres have narrators and conflict. However, this makes foreshadowing difficult in poetry, although not impossible. The drama allows for much more foreshadowing due to its length and the amount of time that the author can spend on developing the characters.
To sum up, in this short essay, we have conducted an examination of fiction in comparison to poetry and drama by drawing upon specific examples from the poem- “Summer Solstice in New York” by Sharon Olds and of drama from A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. We have discussed what are features that define the different genres and also examined their different strengths and weaknesses.
Field, E., & Locklin, G. (1992). New geography of poets. (p. xvii). Little Rock, AR: University of Arkansas Press.
Washington, J.C. (1988). A raisin in the sun revisited. Black American Literature Forum, 22(1), 109-
Wilkerson, M. (1986). A raisin in the sun: anniversary of an american classic . Theatre Journal, 38(4),
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