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American poet, writer, and playwright Langston Hughes is the author of this brief poem. The poem “Harlem” raises important questions concerning goals and aspirations. It was initially released in 1951. The poem serves as an illustration of what may occur if our dreams are not promptly realized. It discusses the fate of dreams that are put on hold, including hopelessness.
About the poet
James Mercer Langston Hughes, a native of Joplin, Missouri, was an American poet, social activist, writer, dramatist, and columnist (February 1, 1901 – May 22, 1967). Hughes is most recognized for being a founder of the Harlem Renaissance and for being one of the first pioneers of the literary genre known as jazz poetry. He made a name for himself by describing a time when “the Negro was in vogue,” which was eventually translated as “when Harlem was in vogue.”
What happens to a dream deferred?
The poem’s epigraph, which is just one phrase, serves as a representation of the African American community. They consider themselves Americans since they reside in Harlem and have access to the American ideal, but they are unable to live it. As a result, the poet queries the audience as to what transpires when the people’s vision is postponed.
The speaker’s condition is shown by the passive voice employed to conceal the subject’s direct involvement in what has led to this postponement of their aspirations. A community is unhappy and in pain as a result of this deferral circumstance. As a result, this sentence introduces the poem’s central theme, which is the intersection between racial injustice and realizing the American Dream.
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet?
The American Dream is compared by Langston Hughes to a variety of temporal objects, such as a raisin in the sun, a festering sore, or rotting flesh. All of these elements lead to substantial rottenness when they are ignored, neglected, or left uncovered.
This American Dream has become anathema for the African American community, as seen by these metaphorical depictions of an abstract notion through concrete objects and that it is also being questioned through rhetorical questions. The poem’s central theme—racial prejudice and achieving the American dream—is expanded by these verses.
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?
The speaker, who is the poem’s representative, adds another metaphor, that of something with sap in it because he believes that all these metaphorical representations may be overlooked. He appears to demonstrate that it just sags like “a heavy load,” leading the observer to observe how much it weighs while being empty of any noteworthy contents.
The clincher, though, captures his whole point. It is that if this form of racial segregation—the postponement of their American Dream—continues, it might blow up. And this can take the form of the right to have their American Dream realized being recognized right now.