Dreams Deferred Essay, Research Paper
The poem, A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes, accurately and descriptively portrays the attitudes of African American people during the mid 1900 s. Hughes expresses the possible responses of African Americans to their dreams being deferred by means of metaphors and similes.
The first thing the reader needs to do to understand this poem is find out what a dream deferred means. Deferred means to put something off or to postpone it. In this poem, Hughes asks the question, and then proceeds to attempt an answer for himself with more questions. The dreams of the blacks in the 1900 s were things such as social, economic, and educational equality, basic civil rights. Unfortunately, the obstacle of racism stood in the way of achieving these goals. However, Hughes poem does not have to be limited to the dreams of African Americans, but any dreams of all people everywhere.
In the first of Hughes possible answers, he asks, Does it dry up/ like a raisin in the sun? The reader needs to think about what exactly raisins are: grapes that shrivel and dry out after a period of time in the sun. With this knowledge, the reader thinks about how to interpret the meaning of this simile. Hughes implies that the dream, like the grape, loses its juice, or its vitality its life. Hughes suggests the dreams of the African Americans will, like the raisin, eventually dry up, and soon after, die if they are deferred.
In presenting another outcome of deferring a dream, Hughes asks if the dream will fester like a sore-/And then run? In this he uses a simile that illustrates a gruesome picture of a sore. The reader thinks of his/her own personal experience of sores. A sore builds up to such an extent that it eventually just breaks open, releasing puss. The festering, in essence, is the frustration that has been building up from the African Americans not being given a chance to succeed economically and socially in the United States.
Does it stink like rotten meat? Another not so charming line gives the image of a dream being a piece of old, rotten meat. Meat becomes rotten when it is not cooked in a good amount of time, concluding that the dream has been forgotten, or put off for too long that it rots. When meat rots there is no way to go back and regain its freshness; it must be thrown away. By this Hughes is saying that if dreams are deferred for too long, they will also have to be thrown away.
Or crust and sugar over-/ like a syrupy sweet? This line gives off a bittersweet image of what might happen to a dream deferred. As an affect of the dream being oppressed for so long, the dreamers begin to look at their situation from a different angle. However, this it s not as bad as it seems view is just the face of denial. Here Hughes is stating that people might begin to sugar it up or make it seem better than it really is in an attempt to settle for where they are. The crust also give represents a thicker barrier behind which to hide true dreams.
In the second to last attempt to answer his own question, Hughes states Maybe it just sags, / like a heavy load? Pictures of heavy loads that the reader might think of are the sagging of a tree limb under a heavy load of snow, or an umbrella that sags down from a heavy rain pour, or tired eyes from too much stress and not enough sleep. A final picture to be thought of is the posture of a person who has too much to deal with and too much on his/her mind. The whole body just sags with poor posture. Basically, what Hughes is suggesting, in this image, is that the dream just becomes too much weight to carry around for the blacks, and just weighs them down. This line of the poem suggests feelings of disappointment and sadness.
In the last line of the poem, Hughes gives a powerful image of the dream being deferred, asking, does it explode? When thinking of an explosion, one might think of a bomb. Another picture could be of too much pressure against a can of something that eventually forces it to explode. African Americans over the last century have exploded into race riots in hopes of gaining equality.
Langston Hughes A Dream Deferred has often been found under the title, Harlem: A Dream Deferred, because it speaks about the black community of Harlem s dreams and their frustration at not gaining economic and social equality. However, if an individual should read this poem not knowing about its background they could conclude that it was meant for all types of dreams that are deferred. Because of Hughes usage of metaphors and similes, A Dream Deferred reaches a wide range of audiences and provokes critical examination of his similes.