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Dreams Of Blacks Deferred In The Poetry Of Langston Hughes

1766 words - 8 pages

Dreams of Blacks Deferred in the Poetry of Langston Hughes

The poetry of Langston Hughes, the poet laureate of Harlem, is an effective commentary on the condition of blacks in America during the 20th Century. Hughes places particular emphasis on Harlem, a black area in New York that became a destination of many hopeful blacks in the first half of the 1900's. In much of Hughes' poetry, a theme that runs throughout is that of a "dream deferred." The recurrence of a "dream deferred" in several Hughes poems paints a clear picture of the disappointment and dismay that blacks in America faced in Harlem. Furthermore, as each poem develops, so does the feeling behind a "dream deferred," ...view middle of the document...

When blacks arrived in Harlem, though, their dream was deferred; instead of the opportunities they had envisioned, they were faced with overcrowding, exploitation, and poverty. At the beginning of"Harlem," the mood that accompanies "a dream deferred" is a questioning one that begins a search for definition. This mood, which will develop as each poem progresses, induces the reader to reflect upon the meaning of "a dream deferred," preparing them for its development. The poem continues, listing the possible fates of a dream that never becomes reality. It suggests that maybe the dream will "dry up / like a raisin in the sun," withering up and disappearing. Maybe it will "stink like rotten meat," becoming a sickening reminder of what will never be. Perhaps the dream will "crust and sugar over;" Hughes seems to be saying here that the dream deferred might be covered up by society with a veil of normalcy. The most powerful line in "Harlem," though, is the last line: "Or does it explode?" This line, in italics for emphasis, makes obvious the severity of a postponed dream, especially the dream of the blacks in Harlem. For a people who have been oppressed for centuries, the denial of yet another dream is not taken lightly. With the final line, Hughes seems to be hinting at a revolution, alluding to the idea that blacks in Harlem are like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Here, the mood of "a dream deferred" has increased in intensity. The possible fates listed previously are unpleasant, but the last one is somewhat ominous and almost threatening.

The theme continues in the poem "Good Morning," emphasizing the rude awakening that awaited the blacks upon their arrival in Harlem with the use of details that paint a more realistic picture and create a more serious feeling about "a dream deferred" in the reader ."Good Morning, " unlike" Harlem," contains direct references to the city. These direct references help the reader to understand the reality that lies within the poem.

The speaker has "watched Harlem grow / until the colored folks spread." Hughes refers to Harlem as a"dusky sash across Manhattan:" he describes the masses of blacks flooding into Harlem from places such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Georgia, and Louisiana. The poem changes moods with the lines"I've seen them come dark/ out of Penn Station - / but the trains are late. / The gates are open - / Yet there're bars / at each gate." The people have not found what they expected and hoped for in Harlem. These last lines help the reader to understand the feelings that accompanied the harsh reality of Harlem. The addition of the blunt question,"What happens / to a dream deferred?" maintains this understanding: this is the"dream deferred," and this is what the people were experiencing. The question is harsh and unyielding, and its position in the poem creates a feeling of seriousness. Another Hughes poem, "Same in Blues," attempts to establish further the idea of a"dream deferred,"...

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