Power of Langston Hughes' Harlem (A Dream Deferred) Essay

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Power of Langston Hughes' Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

In our journey through life, we all have certain expectations of how we would like our lives to be. All of us strive to reach a certain level of self-actulization and acceptance. It could thus be said that all of us live a dream. Some of these individual dreams inevitably become the collective dream of many people. In "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)", Langston Hughes makes use of symbolism as well as powerful sensory imagery to show us the emotions that he and his people go through in their quest for freedom and equality. By using questions he builds the poem towards an exciting climax.

Hughes wants to know "What happens to a dream deferred?" He asks this question as an introduction to
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It gives us an example of the resentment that is growing. People are getting more inflamed emotionally, just like the wound gets worse if not treated. It draws a clear parallel between people's emotions and the images of the sore. Just as an untreated sore will not heal, but get more infected, a deferred dream will not go away, but become more intense. A wound that gets worse will eventually start to smell bad. Hughes compares this to rotten meat. "Does it stink like rotten meat?" This image creates the idea that unrealized dreams will bring out the worst in men. It also means that for some the realization of their dreams will become less attractive.

Next he uses the symbol of sugar, or sweetness. This creates the false image that all is well, almost as if this is the way it is meant to be. However, our minds still stick to the festering sore that is under the "Sweet crust." Hughes uses this image as a transition to the only statement in the poem that is not in the form of a question.

The reason he does not use a question in the phrase; "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load," is to create an image of defeat. When people grow old and tired, their shoulders are bent as if they are carrying a heavy load. Old women's breasts sag as a result of the natural aging process. There is nothing we can do to stop aging. Eventually we all have to give up the struggle and die. Does "a dream deferred" also eventually
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