In two poems entitled "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)" and "Harlem ," Langston Hughes conveys his strong personal opinions and emotions about racial tension and racial issues in America during the first half of the twentieth century. Though each poem concentrates on Hughes' native city of Harlem, the racial tension present in this city is simply a microcosm for the racial issues that America faces as a whole during the time in which Hughes wrote each poem. Racial equality and race relations were the main focus of all of Hughes work throughout his entire life which is reflected clearly in these two poems. Through the use of powerfully figurative language, effective and clear organization, and poetic devices such as personification, simile, and hyperbole, Hughes sharply conveys his theme of mounting racial tension and unjust inequality in each poem, but accomplishes this more concisely and poignantly in "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)."
[...] The next thirteen lines of “Harlem can be divided into two sections, the first being lines three through seven, and the second group being lines eight through fifteen. Lines three through seven read as follows, “Remembering the old lies,/ The old kicks in the back,/ The old patient”/ They told us before. Sure, we remember” (Hughes 947). Here, the personification of Harlem is emphasized undeniably as it is Harlem, a mere city, which is actually remembering past events. The use of the word in line six as well as the personification of Harlem unites the city and its people as one living unit remembering past wrongs done to them. [...]
[...] Much like the rest of the similes, this is also representative of the dream which is not achieved because it is simply forced to sit and wait. The second to last group of lines stands out from the rest of the poem because it is the only phrase that is not a question, and it is separated from the rest of the poem by spaces. It represents a mind that is almost tired of asking questions without finding an answer. [...]
[...] “Harlem Dream Deferred)” is one of Langston Hughes most popular and well- known poems. It achieves a similar theme to that of “Harlem in a much more concise and powerful fashion. Again, the theme of unfulfilled hopes and promises is confronted, only the question this time is: What happens to those unfulfilled dreams? This is how the poems begins, with the introductory question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” (Hughes 663). Since the poem is entitled (later changed to Dream Deferred”), we can assume the same things we did in the first poem, that the speaker is most likely black, and is describing the town of Harlem which is already known to be a symbol for black America. [...]
[...] This is the point that Hughes makes utterly clear, and he reveals in the next lines that something must happen in order for them to survive. In the last lines of “Harlem Hughes emphasizes the first two lines of the poem with a new twist and also asks for a solution. we stand here/ On the edge of hell/ In Harlem/ And look out on the world/ And wonder/ What we're gonna do/ In the face of what/ We remember” (Hughes 947-948). [...]
[...] By forcing the reader to dig deep into the figurative language present in “Harlem Dream Deferred,” Hughes more effectively portrays his theme of possible destruction in the wake of unfulfilled hopes and promises, and the theme of the need for change. Both poems have the same title and seem to be describing the city Harlem; they are both metaphors for the African-American experience in America. Both show the hardships endured by blacks in two uniquely different and powerful methods while one employs a possible violent outcome and one simply is left vague and wondering. [...]
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