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Harlem a Dream Deferred –Explanation Essay

The poem by Langston talks about the fate of dreams that are never fulfilled. The poem is a metaphorical depiction of the disappointment of the ‘black population’ in Harlem. In the poem the dream refers to the hopes of the black people which were opportunity, better living conditions & freedom from racism. However the expectations were dashed by conditions of overpopulation & exploitation. In the poem, Langston describes the fate of an unfulfilled dream by comparing it to a raisin that shrivels in the sun and ultimately disappears. Here the Sun represents time.

The unfulfilled dream may become a sickening reminder of ones failure by ‘stinking like rotten meat’ or it may just crust over with sugar. This last statement here means that society may cover unmet goals with a veil of normalcy. The act is superficial because on the surface the problem may appear to have disappeared. However it would always remain since the root cause was never eradicated. The last line “Or does it explode? ” is quite ominous and as it highlights the severity of a postponed dream. Here the poet compares the oppressed black people who have been denied yet another dream as a ticking bomb ready to explode.


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