Analysis of A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

Essay by dmaniez3High School, 11th gradeA+, May 2008

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The poem “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes basically describes what happens to dreams when they are put on hold. The speaker in the poem originally entitled it “Harlem,” which is the capital of African-American life in the United States. The title was changed to accommodate all dreams in general, and what happens when people postpone making them come true. The speaker’s attitude toward the poem is an advice-giving attitude. The poet doesn’t want people to postpone getting what they want. The poem is written in an informative/caring tone to help people live the lives they dream of having.

In the opening of the poem, the poet uses a visual image, which is a simile, to compare a deferred dream to a raisin. The speaker asks the question “Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?” (2-3) This phrase creates the image of a raisin that used to be a firm, moist, and healthy-looking grape that has become shriveled up into a raisin.

The speaker doesn’t emphasize the appearance of the raisin, so it isn’t as good of an image as the simile. This image gives an emotional effect of a dream deferred shriveling up and turning dark because the sun has baked it.

The words and phrases, “Or fester like a sore”(4), and “Or crust and sugar over”(7) are both symbolic of the hard manual labor that African-Americans had during the early 1900’s. “Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load”(9-10) is a great picture of a dream that sits within a person and weighs there making everything else one does never enough. As the reader puts all of these illusions together, one’s own dreams and ideals are brought to the surface just as Hughes brings his poem to a close with style. “Or does...