Defer” at its core signals difference and delay, and dreams inevitably contain the germ of tardiness, or otherwise they would not be dreams, but present and apparent realities. “What happens” suggests that dreams just sit around and wait. Dreams do not exist in and of themselves, but are the product and profession of another, in the febrile mind of a fun man, or the feverish demand of a weak personality. Dream deferred, the alliteration of noun and verb, announces the start and finish of this poem, the central goal of all that is taking place in this poem. Yet what does happen to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
A raisin in the sun, rays in the sun—the sun’s rays make the grape more sweet, more tough. Raisins last a long time and do not go bad. In the Bible, raisins are a sensuous source of strength: “Stay me with flagons [lit. raisin cakes], comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love.” (Song of Solomon 2:5) Raisins speak of sustenance, restoration, the culmination of great joy; just as time must pass for the grape to dry into a more delicious fruit. Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
A sore that festers—what a ghastly sight! This grim image imparts to the reader the lingering pain of a dream that waits to be realized, that waits to take place, that waits and waits, and then it runs. Yet in so sickening a sight, the notion of a “running sore” indirectly implies life and opportunity. A sore that runs is a mess that heals, and in the same vein, a dream deferred will not remain ignored, but will break forth in the life of a man. Does it stink like rotten meat?
Rotten meat, stinking like the sore, is waiting to be thrown away. Yet meat that rots, meat the stinks, is meat in which new life also lives. For what makes this stench so strong is the new creation of airborne life landing on a piece of flesh. Does the poet see this life? Does he see the seething meat as anything more than an eyesore? Or crust and sugar over—
Please join StudyMode to read the full document