Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dream Thieves

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Readers would not imagine it, but several things happened in Langston Hughes’s 11-line poem “Harlem,” which was written in 151. In “Harlem,” the author formally implies the many ways African American dreams can be deferred. In our American culture, 151 was a year which still involved much segregation, so all the dreams of the Harlem Society could not become reality. Langston asks the readers to find the relationship of dreams that are being postponed and why.

To begin with, the very first line of the poem states “What happens to a dream deferred?”(Line 1) well it is obvious that the author might be substituting characteristics of irony, because the first line should not have been a question. The line simply should have been a statement; dreams are being deferred, if Harlem does not like it, then tough! The dreams were not being put off by the dream-seekers; they were clearly being automatically removed from African Americans as if they had no choice. The rest of the lines in the poem show what is happening to those dreams being deferred, Hughes uses metaphors, similes and analogies, to show the reader that, instead of being blunt. Many readers may agree or disagree with Hughes’s answers to the first question of the poem; his answer’s being the questions that he is asking the reader. For example, when he clearly asks “Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” (Lines -), he is in all actuality giving an answer to his question, believe it or not. This quote is stating that dreams are going to disappear and shrink up and get smaller and smaller until somebody makes a


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Furthermore, if one read this poem then they would come up with several explanations of maybe why Hughes wrote this poem or why the author uses questions instead of just stating the answers. The obvious reader knows that this poem was written not only about the Harlem Society but more or less the whole African American Society in America. Hughes was just starting out when he experienced the Harlem Renaissance, which occurred in the 10’s through the 10’s. When Hughes wrote this poem, it was in between the years which the two had started, the Harlem Renaissance and Civil Rights Movement, which wouldn’t have started for another 10 years. This poem was written for one sole purpose, merely nothing more than a message that needed to get to the people of Harlem. The author might be implying this poem as a secret encoded message to the African Americans, telling Harlem what to do, and to start a movement towards the dream-thieves. This poem might as well have been a secret message that Hughes wanted to get out to the public, because Hughes knew for sure that the white people were not going to read his poems. The author states, “Does it stink like rotten meat?” (Line 6), which is very good example of imagery. To further understand this quote from the poem you have to look past the imagery and find its true meaning. Perhaps the quote is stating that the dream has been put off too long, and if it does not get its attention that it needs in a timely fashion, then it is more then likely going to decay and become rotten. Langston Hughes uses several rhetorical questions in his poem, but they all have true meanings

when, the reader looks past the imagery.

The “dream” is a goal in life, and something that someone wants to accomplish,


because it means so much to them. A dream is not something that only occurs while sleeping; it comes to a person in reality. Hughes never states what the dream might be, but it is up to the reader to plug-in a dream and to ask each and every question from the poem to see what might happen to their dream. Nevertheless, the author stands clearly with his position that any important dream that might be put off or delayed can have serious negative affects. To find out those affects, we look at each question that Hughes asks and it gives the reader the answer. While reading the poem, it seems to the reader that every question is negative, until the following quote arrives “Or crust and sugar over-like a syrupy sweet?” (Lines 7-8). As the reader comes to this quote, they might be thinking, well maybe it isn’t so bad after all, because syrup is sweet and it is good too. Well there is another way of looking at it too, if you happen to let syrup sit without being used for a long time then it is guaranteed to crust over. The dream is being crusted over, and now the syrup cannot be used, just like someone might be trapped in between ice walls, the contents of the wall are hard, and now it might be impossible for someone to chisel and break through that wall.

In conclusion, it could be possible that the author is inferring that Hughes is the subject here, and that Hughes’s dreams were deferred, just as well as everyone else’s during that time period due to segregation. Proving another point, that if Hughes can do it, anyone can accomplish their dreams, as long as they do not let obstacles turn their dreams into hopes. In Hughes’s poem he writes, “Or does it explode?” (Line 11), meaning that the people of Harlem are busting through the obstacles with explosiveness, and are going to steal their dreams back from the dream thieves.


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