A Dream Deferred

By Langston Hughes - Justice Michael Period 5

Explication Project

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The poem starts with a question to the reader " What happens to a dream deferred?" The speaker tells a journey of what an unfulfilled dream can end up like. He asks if it will dry up, fester,stink, crust, sag, or explode.

The speaker is describing a dream and the ways that a dream may be deferred.

The speaker writes about physical changes to the dream and what would happen to dream after it has been dreamed.


The poem expresses a mood of curiosity in what will happen in the future.

The speaker is Langston Hughes and he is speaking to an unknown audience.
The tone expressed in this poem is pondering, as the speaker asks rhetorical questions to the reader.


The form of this poem is free form. The poet dosnot have to be tied down to a pattern, and can express his thoughts freely. The movement of this poem is based on causes and effects of rhetorical questions. This makes the audience come up with the story line and makes the reader really connect with this poem. There are seven sentences in the poem that are simple. They are in the usual "noun, verb" order. The poem has end-stopped line punctuation. The title “A Dream Deferred” makes the reader question the outcome if goals are not achieved.


The language is a mix of colloquial and simple diction. There are allusions to food and objects in this poem. An example of an allusion to food is seen when the speaker compares the dream to a raisin in the sun, describing the intenceness of the sun. There are many uses personification, similys, and figurative language references in this poem. Some examples are “drying up” (1st stanza), the simile “like a syrupy sweet, and sags”(Rooney). The main way that the poem expresses its ideas are by asking rhetorical questions such as, "does it dry up?, Does it stink like rotten meat?, and Does it explode?(Rooney). They all allow the reader to create tangible images to stress the poem’s meaning.

Musical Devices

The main musical device in the poem is the rhyme scheme. The rhyme scheme is ABCBDEDFGG. This gives the poem a rythem that helps the poem flow freely.

Langston Hughes History

Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri (Academy of American Poets). Most of his families were leaders in the African American community, so he lived different cities. He started to write poetry in his high school, in Cleveland Ohio (Academy of American Poets). He wrote poetry, novels, short stories, and plays (Academy of American Poets). Hughes was influenced by the rhythms of African American music, like blues and jazz (Academy of American Poets). His first poem started in his 8th grade year of school, and followed him throughout his life. He died in 1967 from cancer (Academy of American Poets).

Works Cited

Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2015.

Rooney, Kathleen. "Harlem." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.