Harlem Poem Summary & Analysis

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About Poem: Harlem

Poem TitleHarlem
AuthorLangston Hughes
Publication date1951
ThemeThe consequences of deferred dreams
Form11 lines, no regular meter or rhyme scheme
Literary devicesSimile, metaphor
Structure11-line poem with no specific rhyme scheme

Themes: Harlem

The themes of Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” are:

  1. Deferred Dreams ➤ The poem explores what happens when dreams are postponed or delayed.
  2. Racial Discrimination ➤It talks about how racial discrimination affects the aspirations of African Americans.
  3. Consequences of Postponed Goals ➤ The poem looks at the negative outcomes that can result from not being able to pursue one’s dreams.

Harlem Poem

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up

      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore-

      And then run?

      Does it stink like rotten meat?

      Or crust and sugar over-

      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags

      like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Harlem Summary & Analysis

Stanza 1

The poem begins by asking what happens to dreams that are delayed or postponed. It likens these dreams to a raisin in the sun, suggesting that they might dry up or wither if not pursued. The stanza raises the idea that unfulfilled dreams can have negative consequences.

Stanza 2

The poem suggests that deferred dreams might fester, or become infected, like a sore. It asks if they might stink like rotten meat, which implies that delayed dreams can lead to a sense of decay and unpleasantness.

Stanza 3

This stanza inquires whether postponed dreams might sag, or become heavy and burdensome. It draws a comparison to a heavy load, which implies that unfulfilled dreams can weigh people down.

Stanza 4

The final stanza poses a question to the reader: does it explode? This implies that when dreams are continuously put off, they can build up pressure and eventually lead to an explosive outcome, possibly causing harm or destruction.

FAQs: Harlem

What does the poem Harlem say?

The poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes says that unfulfilled dreams can lead to negative consequences.

How many lines are in the poem Harlem?

Harlem has 11 lines.

What does the last line of Harlem mean?

A deferred dream can lead to violence and destruction.

What is What is the tone of the poem Harlem?

The tone of the poem Harlem is: Somber and cautionary.

How does the poem Harlem use imagery?

The poem uses vivid comparisons to convey the negative consequences of deferred dreams.

What does crust and sugar over mean?

It means that dreams might become hard and sweet on the outside but still unfulfilled on the inside.

What does sags like a heavy load mean?

“Sags like a heavy load” means it becomes heavy and drooping, like a weight that’s hard to carry.

What does fester like a sore mean?

“Fester like a sore” means to get worse and painful, like a cut that doesn’t heal.

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