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Langston Hughes, Dream Deferred

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"What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"

Langston Hughes was a prolific writer. In the forty years between his first book in 1926 and his death in 1967, he devoted his life to writing and lecturing. Hughes was seen as one of the leaders in the Harlem renaissance, which was an unprecedented outburst of creative activity among African-Americans in the 1920's. In 1951, Hughes published a volume of poetry titled Montague of a Dream Deferred in which his poem "Harlem" can be found. This poem is one man's expression of his dreams during a difficult time period. As a black man in a time period where African-Americans were considered an inferior group of people, dreams and goals would have been difficult to realize. It is just as easy to relate this poem to dreams in general. Hughes opens this poem by posing the question "what happens to a dream deferred?"(1) In the lines that follow, Hughes uses aspects of imagery, simile and metaphor to unveil a picture in the readers mind.

Hughes uses imagery in a carefully arranged series of images that also function as figures of speech. By doing this he suggests that people should not delay their dreams because the more they postpone them, the more their dreams will change and become less of reality and more of just a dream. Imagery is in twined with similes that bring this poem to life in the readers mind.

Similes are most apparent throughout the poem; we can find them in almost every line. Hughes asks the question, "Does it [the dream] dry up/ like a raisin in the sun?"(2-3) The comparison of the dream to a raisin shows how a dream that is put off changes dramatically and will not turn out as the person originally intended. A raisin that has been sitting in the sun dries up completely and becomes hard and impossible to eat, the value is sucked out. Or maybe it will "fester like a sore/ and then run"(4-5) If you have a sore that festers and then runs, it means that it is infected and stays with your body. This is a painful reminder of what could have been. If the dream is put off for too long it will start to "stink like rotten meat"(6). A dream that is not realized may begin to decay



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