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A Dream Deferred In Langston Hughes' "Harlem"

770 words - 4 pages

In his poem “Harlem”, Langston Hughes utilizes various poetic elements in order to describe what happens to a dream when it is put on hold. Whether a dream is taken away or simply unobtainable, the effects of a delayed dream can be detrimental. In the poem, the speaker lists possibilities of what might happen to such a dream. All of the possibilities ultimately imply that a dream is less likely to come true if not acted upon immediately. Langston Hughes incorporates examples of sound quality, imagery, and figurative language into his short poem “Harlem”, to illustrate how a “dream deferred” essentially begins to disintegrate the moment it is postponed.
Hughes incorporates various ...view middle of the document...

Additionally, the speaker asks, “Does it stink like rotten meat?” (l. 6). Most individuals are familiar with the smell of something rotting and may relive their negative experiences with such a stench when presented with this olfactory image. Through the use of various types of vivid imagery, Hughes enables his readers to see, feel, and even smell the possibilities of the fate of a dream that has been postponed.
Throughout the poem, there are multiple occurrences of figurative language, and the use of simile and metaphor allows the reader to compare the ideas presented in the poem to common experiences in order to have a better understanding of the effect of delaying a dream. The speaker asks, “Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?” (l. 2-3). Just as a juicy grape dries out and transforms into a raisin, this simile implies that a delayed dream may lose its wonder and transform into something completely different than it once was intended to be. Once a grape has dried out into a raisin, it cannot transform back into a grape. Another example of a simile in the poem is revealed when the speaker states, “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load” (l. 9-10). A dream that is unobtainable or postponed serves as an emotional...

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