After the Civil War won the black people their freedom, it seemed as though their dreams of great opportunities were finally going to come true. However, they were met by even more obstacles, which left the blacks to wonder if their dreams had any chance of occurring, or if they should just give up. In his poem, "Harlem," Langston Hughes used increasingly destructive imagery to present his warning of what will happen if you delay working towards your goal.
Hughes' first two images depict withering and drying, a sense of death. His first example, a "dried raisin," conveys that the dream deferred has shriveled into nothing and has no hope of ever happening. The dried raisin, being old, wrinkled, and lifeless, suggests that the dream deferred is forgotten, lost, and nothing but a memory. The second example, crusted syrup, being hard and dried up, again suggests that the dream deferred has no life. Also, being bittersweet, using the example of syrup implies that the dream deferred is hard and sour (undesirable) on the outside, yet sweet on the inside.
The next two images Hughes uses continue to suggest a sense of death and decay. The first, "rotten meat," which is odorous and reeks of death, very strongly suggests that the dream deferred has lost its beauty. This image also implies that the dream is a thing of past that's now worthless. The second image, a "running sore," hints that the dream is synonymous to a diseased, infected wound. The dream has now become grotesque, ugly, and painful. Also, since a sore can be irritating and bothering, we can deduce that the dream deferred keeps nagging at the person. This prevents the person from ignoring or forgetting about their dream.
The following image, which compares the dream to a sagging, "heavy load," shows how burdensome it can be. It's as though the memory of the dream is in the bag, and the disappointment of the dream's impossibility weighs the dreamer down. The dream deferred (bag) is very...
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