Friday, January 31, 2014

Harlem [Dream Deferred] 
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?
- Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’ poem, “Dream Deferred” reveals that dreams that are deferred end up becoming toxic because of the permanent regret that remains from not fulfilling the dream. His message is made more prominent through his usage of rhetorical questions and vivid imagery.
            He first compares a dream deferred to a dried up raisin in the sun (lines 1-2). Raisins, while still considered “fruits” are a dried up, aged version of grapes. Wrinkled up, losing its vibrant color and juiciness, raisins can be considered less appealing than grapes. Like dreams, grapes are best when they are fresh. By making this comparison, Langston Hughes is advocating that dreams be fulfilled as quickly as possible and not be deferred. By waiting and putting the dream on the backburner, the fresh possibility of the dream fades and the regret takes over. A raisin, which is much like the shell of the grape, robbed of its moisture and freshness of the fruit is like the regret that is left over when the dream is deferred.
            In lines (3-4), the dreams that were put aside are compared to festering sores. “Sore” can refer to a wound or diseased part of one’s body part but it can also refer to “sore” as in causing great suffering, misery, or hardship ( One can also be “sore” as a result of suffering bodily pain from bruises or wounds. When one becomes “sore” it is usually after enduring slight pain over a great deal of time. Langston Hughes makes the argument that dreams work in the same way. If a dream is put aside for a long period of time, the pain and regret builds up, therefore making one “sore”. That regret, remains permanent until the dream is fulfilled.
            He asks the reader, “Does it stink like rotten meat?” in line (5). Like the festering sore in lines (3-4), “rotten” gives off the image of “decomposing” or “tainted” meat. If unattended and uncared for a long enough time, dreams too can decompose and turn rotten, corrupting a person from the inside just as festering sores and rotting meat does. It is through the neglect that the regret and harm arises.

            However, Langston Hughes does not end his views on deferred dreams by saying that they simply rot inside a person. Instead, he chooses to end his poem with a rhetorical question as his last line, “Or does it explode?” It’s as if the regret built itself up to a great pressure and burst out from within the once-dreamer. Dreams that are deferred do not merely sit within a person; instead, they burst out after years of being put aside. No matter what, they find a way out. It’s as if the whole process is necessary for cleansing. Like a festering sore, the infection or the rotting flesh must be terminated or amputated. Deferred dreams, because of how harmful they are, must find a way to escape the body. 

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