Langston Hughes' poem "Dream Deferred"

Essay by alley2180High School, 12th grade November 2002

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Langston Hughes was part of the Harlem Renaissance and was known as "the poet laureate of Harlem." His poems tell of the joys and miseries of the ordinary black man in America. In Hughes' poem "Dream Deferred" he uses figures of speech, tone, and a unifying theme to show how black people's dreams were delayed.

Hughes uses similes and metaphors--figures of speech--to portray that often times their dreams never came true. He asks if they "dry up like a raisin in the sun," if they "fester like a sore," if they "stink like rotten meat," or if they "crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet." All of these statements are examples of similes. Even though he is using similes as comparisons, he is actually asking what happens to a "dream deferred." The last line of the poem, which is a metaphor, asks, " or does it explode?" By the use of this metaphor, Hughes is able to paint an explicit picture of a dream exploding like a bomb.

If he had used a simile here, it would not have left a drastic image in the reader's mind.

Hughes' tone is one of uncertainty because he is inquisitive about the subject matter. He keeps asking what happens to the "dream deferred." By him using this kind of tone in the poem, it makes the reader wonder what happens to the dream once it has been delayed. This poem could be used as a form of encouragement to some readers. After reading this poem they could become determined to not let their dreams become "deferred."

The theme "dream deferred" is the unifying component of this poem. It keeps Hughes' central ideas together. Not only that, but it also keeps it as the reader's main focus. That way they will leave questioning...