“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raison in the sun? Or does it fester like a sore- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust over- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”
This poem by Langston Hughes titled “Harlem” introduces the idea of loss. The loss being a dream put on hold or deferred for some time. Hughes questions what happens to it once it is deferred. Does it dry up, fester like a sore, stink like rotten meat or crust over? Metaphorically, he is asking if over time will a dream become less important and fade away or will it eat away at you if put off for too long. Then it suggests that it might just sag like a heavy load suggesting that it holds you back from your other dreams. He lastly asks if it explodes which would represent a total loss of a dream.
Much like the poem “Harlem” the poem “The Slave Auction” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, it projects the feeling of loss. Thou in steed of the loss of a dream, it deals with loosing loved ones not necessarily in death but separation. An example of this form of loss is present in the second paragraph. “And mothers stood with streaming eyes/ And saw their children sold; Unheeded rose their bitter cries/ While tyrants bartered them for gold.” In this part, she describes African American woman crying as their children are being taken from them and sold to the highest bidder. The husband’s cries are also menschen in the fourth paragraph to add on to the feeling of losing their loved ones. She then writes in the last part of the poem, “Ye who have laid your love to rest/ And wept above their lifeless clay/ Know not the anguish of that breast/ Whose lov’d are rudely torn away… Ye may not know how desolate are bosoms rudely forced to part/ And how a dull and heavy weight will press the life-drops from the heart.” She is telling us about the heart break that comes with having your loved ones forced away...
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