One of the most essential poetic devices Hughes uses in “Harlem” is the use of figurative language. Through the use of figurative language Hughes is able to evoke a genuine connection with the reader. Written during an era when social equality was more commonly spoken about, rather than acted upon. Hughes did an incredible job of creating visualizations of how African Americans felt about their goals, dreams, and self-esteem. Hughes strategically utilized this poetic device to portray how challenging, and nearly impossible, it was for African American’s to achieve ambitions and goals during an era of social inequality. The primary role for figurative language is to force readers to imagine what the author means with an expression. Hughes straightforwardly asks the general audience, “What happens to a dream deferred?” in his opening line (line 1). Following this sentence are a series of comparisons that arouse the creative mind to connect the idea of African American’s and their dreams to uninspiring images. Immediately following the opening sentence are a pair of lines that provoke the creativity of the reader’s mind. “Does it dry up/ like a raisin ...
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...time when the struggles for civil and social rights and equality battered and swept the nation. Opening up a poem with particular words choices such as “deferred”, implicates the already existing struggle with the dreams of African Americans. Readers would possibly correlate dreams to happy, positive, motivating thoughts and images, rather than terms such as “rotting meat” or “festering like a sore” (lines 4-6).
With the use of poetic devices and the creative mind of Langston Hughes, “Harlem,” provided greater insight of how difficult social inequality was for African Americans during the 1950’s. “Harlem” provoked our five senses to mentally see the struggles of social inequality within a nation that was supposed to be united. This poem creates greater understanding of how racial segregation greatly affected the African American community and their future endeavors.
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