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Langston Hughes: In The Beginning There Was Language

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In The Beginning, There Was Language

A dream is a hope, a wish, and an aspiration. Everyone has dreams about what they want to be when they grow up, how they want to live, whom they want to marry and how their life will turn out. However, not all dreams can come true right away. Many of them are just out of reach and can only be attained by hard work, leadership and determination. The poem "A Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes is an example of just that, a dream that is just simply out of reach. So what happens to a dream deferred? Deferred, defined by The New American Webster Dictionary, means to put off, delay or postpone something to a later date. Poetry is filled with many different aspects of poetic language just a few of them being, connotation, denotation, metaphors, similes and imagery. This poem, by Langston Hughes is one of many thatis filled with these different types of poetic language and spikes the ears, eyes and imagination into painting a picture of what the poet was feeling. A dream should always be realized, never deferred.

The poem opens up with a rhetorical question in the very first line, "What happens to a dream deferred?" (1). The rest of the poem goes on to propose an answer to the question. Langston Hughes makes it a point to use words with a very negative connotation, such as dry, fester, sore, stink, rotten, crust and sag. All of these words have an off-putting attitude, and by describing things in a deconstructive manner, the poet creates a very gruesome picture for the reader, leading you to believe

that all of these bad things happen when a dream is deferred. These descriptive words however, lead us into the next element of language in poetry, figures of speech such as metaphors and similes.

Within this short eleven-line poem, there are five similes present. A simile is a comparison of two objects using like or as. The first simile used is comparing the "dream deferred" (1) to a drying up "raisin in the sun" (3). Before a raisin dries up, it is a beautiful juicy grape. However, once the sun reaches and affects the grape, the once plump fruit used to make juice and wine for all to enjoy, is now just a shriveled up raisin. A raisin can still be of use just not for as many things as a plump grape.

The next one compares a dream deferred to a festering "sore" (4). A sore that never completely heals can grow bad and cause infection in the body. In applying that thought to a dream that cannot be realized, you come up with a dream that has become somewhat of a burden for the owner, like that of a festering sore. If the owner does not attend to and properly care for the sore and it does in fact become infected that could cause more problems for the dream that will not only be deferred but maybe never even realized. The poet just can't seem to realize the dream instead it just sits there like an infection that continually reminds him it is yet to be accomplished.

Does a dream deferred, "stink like rotten meat" (6)? To imagine a dream that is stinking like rotten meat is disgusting. What once was a beautiful, tender filet has wasted away into a piece of stinking rotten meat. The meat is still edible but could probably make one very sick if not be deadly. So to look at the dream as if it is meat, if the dream is not 'eaten' or 'prepared' then it could just sit there and rot over and become of no use to anyone.




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