Analysis of Langston Hughes' Harlem (Dream Deferred):
Langston Hughes's poem "Dream Deferred" is basically about what happens to dreams when they are put on hold. Hughes probably intended for the poem to focus on the dreams of African-Americans in particular because he originally entitled the poem "Harlem," which is the capital of African American life in the United States; however, it is just as easy to read the poem as being about dreams in general and what happens when people postpone making them come true. Ultimately, Hughes uses a carefully arranged series of images that also function as figures of speech to suggest that people should not delay their dreams because the more they postpone them, the more the dreams will change and the less likely they will come true.
In the opening of the poem the speaker uses a visual image that is also a simile to compare a dream deferred to a raisin. The speaker asks the question, "Does it [the dream] dry up / Like a raisin in the sun?" (2-3). Here we can see the raisin, which used to be a moist, taut, healthy-looking grape, has shriveled up to become a raisin. The speaker does not emphasize the appearance of the raisin, so the description isn't as significant as an image as it is as a simile. Why compare a dream deferred to a raisin? Like a raisin, a dream deferred shrivels up and turns dark because the sun has baked it. The emphasis on the sun is important because it stresses time-we measure time by the sun's movement. Like the raisin, the dream has been on hold for a long time-consequently, it has transformed into something very different than it once was. Because they look so different, few people would believe that raisins were once grapes unless they had been told. Similarly, a dream that continues to be postponed will go through an evolution as well-it won't be the same as the original. On the surface, a reader might not view the outcome as negative because raisins are valuable on their own-they