An Analysis of Harlem a Poem by Langston Hughes Essay

An Analysis of Harlem a Poem by Langston Hughes Essay

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Dreams are aspirations that people hope to achieve in their lifetime. They are a motive that drives lives to accomplish goals. When trying to achieve these goals, people can do anything. However, what happens when a dream is deferred? A dream cast aside can frustrate a person in the deepest way. It tends to permeate their thoughts and becomes an unshakable burden. In the poem “Harlem,” Langston Hughes, through literary technique, raises strong themes through a short amount of language.
The poem begins with a question: "What happens to a dream deferred?” The speaker of the poem at this point is unnamed. By not knowing the speaker, the question is strengthened, as the deferred dream is the dreams and desires of all the people within the African American community. The form of the question, being a single-line stanza, helps raise silence after the question, allowing the readers to open their minds.
To answer the initial question, the speaker poses six additional questions. The six questions that are asked also have indefinite answers, but the speaker uses imagery to suggest the impression of the dream deferred. These images are the raisins, festered sores, rotten meat, sweet syrup and explosion. Along with these objects being described with a state of decay, the dream is portrayed similarly. The words, such as "drying up," "fester," "stink," and "sags" summarize the sour and sad tone of the dream. These images and tones represent the speaker's viewpoint of the deferred dream and Harlem.
The first answer of the initial question "What happens to a dream deferred" is another question: "Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” When comparing the raisin's dried and wrinkled texture to a grape's juicy and smooth texture, it creates a...


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...d despair. This, for any community, is a great burden to hold.
In the last line of the poem, the speaker uses a word of destruction -- "explode.” The choice of diction does not portray the dream in the usual sense as paradises. The speaker claims the dream that the community experiences will eventually destroy the community of Harlem. The dream only leaves a sense of bitterness and desperation just as the impression the speaker has on Harlem. The form of this destructive line also symbolizes the status of the questions that were previously stated: when Harlem cannot heal its sores and wounds, it will explode all at once through means of riots and protests. Furthermore, the usage of italics in the last line can emphasis the severity of a postponed dream, in this case of the African American community. This final line increases the intensity of the situation.







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