Dreams Deferred

Langston Hughes

About Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902 in Joplin Missouri. He is best known for writing and telling about the life of an African American living in America in the 1920's to the 1960's. He was a new kind of Harlem Renaissance that showed his suffering, which was uncommon for other African American writers of the time. Hughes combined his personal life, with the general experience of an African American in his writings to show both his suffering and joy. Through his poetry he told of what it was like to live his life. In Dreams Deferred, he writes of the importance of dreams to him, and where they took him. He was the first black poet to earn a living by writing. Hughes died of prostate cancer on May 22, 1967.

Dream Deferred

Dream Deferred is also referred to as Harlem. This was the first name of the poem, and has been changed, and is now referred to as both. He first named it Harlem to show how the poem could be reflected by the Harlem community. He then changed it to Dreams to show how the message of the poem applies to everyone.
Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes (Poetry Reading)

At First Glance

When I first looked at the poem I only thought about what Langston Hughes is saying in according to dreams. As I looked further into the poem however, I realized that when Hughes wrote this he was trying to get people to see how this poem is also talking about the connection between who we are, and our dreams, and how when one is affected the other is as well.

What happens to a dream deferred?

This first line Hughes wrote is supposed to get readers to think about this question. It helps to put the reader in the mood of the poem. It makes the reader already have an idea before hearing what Langston Hughes thinks. It makes the reader think of some of those dreams they had as a child, and where they went, or about those forgotten dreams, or the ones they put off. Hughes is asking us what happens to us when we have a dream deferred.

Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?

A raisin left in the sun becomes something less sweet, and loses all it's juices. Hughes is questioning us, weather we think our dreams just become useless, and that is how they become forgotten, that we are the ones that take the "juice" from our dreams. He is guiding our thoughts about our deferred dreams, but yet letting it open to us to decide on what really happens to them. Along with referring to our dreams as raisin, he is also trying to get readers to think about themselves as a raisin. Our dreams symbolize our "juice", and when we let dreams become deferred ones, we let go of something that makes us who we are.

Or fester like a sore- and then run?

When there is a cut in your skin, if it scabs over, and puss forms, it takes longer to heal. Hughes is asking us if dreams are like scabs, where their is a part of us that takes longer to heal if we forget about our dreams, rather than if we tried to accomplish them. He is also suggesting that when a dream is forgotten or put off so is a part of us. Just like when we get cuts, we lose blood, and there is a imperfection on our skin for a while and even a lifetime scar, when we lose dreams it can create imperfections in us.

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Nobody wants to smell or even be around rotten meat. Hughes is asking us if we treat some of our dreams like rotten meat, where we want nothing to do with them, and all we want to do is get rid of it. Sometimes, we might feel that our dreams have no meaning, and just "stink" up the rest of our life, but Hughes is hinting at us, that our dreams will always be a part of us, and if we treat them like something bad, then we are treating ourselves like rotten meat, because we are keeping ourselves from dreams.

Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet?

Hughes is asking the reader if when a dream becomes deferred, if something different results, and the person becomes different. Just like when a syrupy sweet sits out it crusts over, do our dreams become like a barrier to us, just like the crust becomes like a new barrier to the sweet? When you first look at this line, it's supposed to lead the reader to believe that this is something good or not so sour about deferred dreams, because it is talking about a sugar sweet. When you look closer however, you see the real meaning behind it.

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load?

We have all had to carry a heavy load at sometime, probably both mentally and physically. In this line, Hughes is relaying to the reader, that after a while of the dream just sitting there, it starts to pull us down even more. When carrying a heavy box around for a while with each step the box seems to be getting heavier. This is also another point Hughes is trying to make. When we continue to carry our dreams with us without pursuing them, they start to become more of a toll on us, and it would be easier to try to fulfill the dream rather than just carry it around.

Or does it explode?

This is asking if a dream really does disappear without a trace, or if in the process it destroys us, or the part of us that dream was. When something explodes it leaves lasting effects, and lots of damage, such as when a dream leaves forever, it destroys part of us.. I personally think this is a great ending, because it is again stating the idea of how important all of our dreams our, and when we let one go, part of us is let go also.


Free Verse and Irregular Meter- this poem doesn't have very much rhyme, or any meter. Some lines are short, and other lines are longer.

Simile- uses the word like (Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?)

Alliteration-repetition of a sound- Dream Deferred, Does it dry up, syrupy sweet

Anaphora- repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a section- Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Does it stink like rotten meat?, Or fester like a sore- and then run? Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet? Or does it explode?

My Opinion

I really like this poem, because it is inspiring. It tells the readers to chase your dreams and not let them go. I like how it gives more of a meaning to dreams, and how they make up a bigger part of ourselves than what we realize.