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“Harlem” and “Harlem [1]” by Langston Hughes

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Brief historical perspective.
  3. These opening two lines.
  4. Harlem (A Dream Deferred) and its similarity to the theme of 'Harlem [1]'.
  5. The second to last group of lines and why they stand out from the rest of the poem.
  6. Conclusion.

In two poems entitled ?Harlem (A Dream Deferred)? and ?Harlem [1],? 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. [...]

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