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“Harlem” by Hughes

Categories Harlem Renaissance, History, Literature, Poetry

Essay, Pages 3 (691 words)



Essay, Pages 3 (691 words)

Nowadays Langston Hughes is considered to be one of the well-known and most influential African-American poets in the twentieth century. His poetry was published from the Harlem Renaissance when the African-American artists along with their works had been flourishing in Harlem till the beginning of Black Movements as well as Civil Rights. Hughes’ brief poem “Harlem” introduces eternal themes seen throughout his volume “Montage of Dream Deferred” as well as throughout his life and career as a poet.

The poem “Harlem” emphasizes the living conditions of people with limited dreams which are put off and lost in Harlem in post-war period.

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Therefore the poet touched the deepest and most painful themes of those times. Actually the main theme of the poem is to present that postponing person’s dreams and desires will inevitably result in deconstruction. (Hughes 1996) The questions of the poem are addressed to social consequences of many deferred dreams and they are hinting at racial strife as well as at resentment erupted with the Black movements and Civil Rights during 1950-1960s.

Throughout the poem the author sketches many decayed and wasted images and represents in such a way that the dream is lost and fated. It is seen in the poem that many potential consequences are influencing only single dreamers. The ending of the poem persuades that despair can “explode” if being epidemic and will result in political and social damage. (Hughes 1996) It is apparent that the poem is full of extraordinary and interesting literary devices. For example, the author uses many rhetorical questions simply because he wants these questions to be answered themselves.

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First stanza is characterized by a rhetoric question using also a simile “like a raisin in the sun”, “sags like a heavy load”, “like rotten meat”, “like a sore”, “like a syrupy sweet”, etc, that will be discussed below. The last stanza is characterized by using a question along with metaphor “does it explode? ”. The metaphor is the symbol of drastic difference between unsuccessful reaching a desired dream and making dream come true. (Hughes 1996) The poem has its own irregular rhyme: meat-sweet, load-explode, sun-run. The author uses irregular meter – he stresses different syllables in every line varying their length in each line.

Such rhyme makes and impression of sense of nervous energy and increase frustration. The rhyme is formed on musical forms such as “jazz, ragtime, swing, blues, boogie-woogie, and bebop” as the author was really fond of them. The poem is characterized by sudden nuances and conflicting changes. (Hughes 1996) Hughes in his poem uses a series of similes in order to depict and describe in more vivid way what is happening to a dream when it is put off. There are five similes in the poem:

  1. The first simile is in the third line: “dry up like a raisin in the sun”. This simile suggests that the human’s dream has been already forgotten.(Hughes 1996)
  2. The second simile is in the fourth line: “fester like a sore”. The simile outlines that dream eats a person and aggravates him as it is not obtained.
  3. The third simile is in the sixth line: “stink like rotten meat”. This simile suggests that it is a dream that makes a person crazy and mad, because he realizes he is unable to make his dream come true. (Hughes 1996)
  4. The fourth simile is in the eighth line: “sugar over like a syrupy sweet”. This simile point out that the dream is seen in the horizon and a person can taste it as it is close to him.
  5. The fifth simile is in the tenth line: “sags like a heavy load”. The simile questions if dream is a burden for dreamer. (Hughes 1996)

In conclusion it is necessary to notice that I prefer drama and therefore was strongly influenced by “Harlem” as it makes realistic portrays of real people who underwent negative treatment because of racist attitudes and stereotypes. I agree with the author that those stereotypes have to be countered as all people are equal in the world. (Hughes 1996)


Hughes, Langston. (1996, June 25). A Dream Deferred. Retrieved September, 28, from http://www.cswnet.com/~menamc/langston. htm

Cite this essay

“Harlem” by Hughes. (2017, Mar 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/harlem-by-hughes-essay

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