Langston Hughes's poem "Dream Deferred" is basically about what happens to dreams when they are put on hold. Hughes probably intended for the poem to focus on the dreams of African-Americans because he originally entitled the poem "Harlem," which is the capital of African American life in the United States; however, it is just as easy to read the poem as being about dreams in general and what happens when people postpone making them come true.
Overall, Hughes uses a carefully arranged series of images that suggest that people should not delay their dreams because the more they postpone them, the more the dreams will change and the less likely they will come true. In the opening of the poem Hughes uses a visual image that compares a dream deferred to a raisin. Hughes asks the question, "Does it [the dream] dry up, Like a raisin in the sun? " (2-3). Here you can see the raisin, which used to be a moist, healthy-looking grape, has shriveled up to become a raisin.
Like the raisin, the dream has been on hold for a long time and eventually it has transformed into something very different than it once was. Because they look so different, few people would believe that raisins were once grapes unless they had been told. Similarly, a dream that continues to be postponed will go through a transformation as well-it won't be the same as the original. On the surface, readers may not view the outcome as negative because raisins are valuable on their own. However, Hughes does not stress the taste of the raisin; he emphasizes the fact that a raisin "dries up" or loses its moisture.
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The comparison of the dream to the withered raisin shows how a dream that is postponed changes dramatically and will not turn out as the person originally intended. The next image in the poem “fester like” a sore and then run” (3-4) gives you a sense of infection and pain. Comparing the dream to a sore of a body, Hughes suggests that unfulfilled dreams become part of us, like a longstanding injury that has gathered pus. The word “fester” meaning something decay and “run” literally refers to pus in my opinion.
From this perspective, it explains the pain that someone has when their dream always defers. A postponed dream is like a painful injury that begins to be infected. The next image “Does it stink like rotten meat”(5) intensified the sense of disgust. A dream deferred may also stink. If dreams are stashed away, will they haunt us like rotten meat haunts us when it sits too long in the refrigerator? If rotting meat didn't smell so bad, how much longer do you think it would sit in your fridge? The smell is often what reminds us to do something about it, to throw it away.
What kinds of things crust or sugar over(6)? Honey; cheese or candy. Usually things that left out in the open and that aren't put away properly. Can dreams be put away properly? Can dreams be preserved if they aren't pursued? Hughes compares dreams to sweet-tasting things, and comparing the bitterness of lost dreams. “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load” (8-9). Sagging things are things that are old, for example our skin, furniture or even curtains. I think Hughes is pointing out how important dreams are because they are heavy and if we ignore them, they grow to sag. Or does it explode” (10)? I think when Hughes uses the word “explode” he leaves it up to question. Explode could mean either from built up pressure or something more positive like fireworks or celebration. Whichever comparison, I think either are strong outcomes become your dream has some sort of result. Because of the time period Hughes wrote this poem, I think he wants the readers to question and think about their dreams, and what you are going to do with them; especially for African Americans.
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