dream deferred metaphor

Dream Deferred Metaphor

Langston Hughes’ poem, “Harlem,” also known as “A Dream Deferred,” explores the consequences of letting a dream go unfulfilled. The poem’s title, Harlem, suggests that the dream has been hidden from the people. The dream promotes civil rights and social equality. Hughes employs figurative language to convey vivid imagery in the poem.

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This metaphor is similar to a dream that has been delayed until it explodes. The dream’s momentum may build, and then, with nowhere else to go, it might explode. Alternately, anger from the dreamer may cause the dreamer to act. It is the explanation for the dream deferred metaphor.

What happens to a dream deferred?

As “Harlem” introduces the poem’s background and fundamental subject, the dream-deferred metaphor is encountered in the poem’s title and opening line. The poem’s title alludes to a specific portion of New York City’s historically black neighborhood. It was during this period that tens of millions of African-Americans relocated from rural regions in southern states to metropolitan places such as Harlem. This area became a hub for black literature, art, and music in the 1910s through the early 1920s during and soon after the Great Migration, a time of great change for African Americans in the United States.

The poem’s title also serves as a dream deferred metaphor for the racial injustice that Harlem’s residents have had to bear. Although black Americans had served their country honorably in World War II, they were nonetheless subjected to a host of discriminatory policies and practices, including state-sanctioned racism, racial segregation, police brutality, widespread unemployment, and white supremacist violence. Harlem Riots of 1935 and 1943, and the Civil Rights Movement of the early 1950s, were both sparked by these circumstances.

As a result, the poem’s themes are examined, and its opening line is comprehended in the context of its title, establishing a geographical, political, and cultural setting. In contrast to the remainder of the poem, just the first line of “What happens to a dream deferred?” is left justified. It’s as though the formatting ties the poem’s opening question directly to its title, creating a dream deferred metaphor.

To begin, the “dream” of the poem’s opening question gets unavoidable overtones; from the beginning, it is evident that the poem is not simply about a personal, individual dream but about a wider hope of social justice cherished by individuals in Harlem. They have experienced oppression for so long.

The opening question at the level of language is simple and direct. It invites the reader to engage with it and attempt to answer it. The question implicates and involves the reader in the problem of what will happen to the dreams. This feeling of involvement is what explains the dream deferred metaphor. The questions in the poem connect readers to the dream as well as to the stakes. It suggests that the dream is important for all people, not just Harlemians.

The opening line juxtaposes the conversational quality “What happens” with “dream deferred,” and also the compression and musical qualities (in “dream” as well as the symmetries of the long “e/ sounds) that tie the words together. This suggests that the dream is by default “deferred,” or continually put off.

This phrase explains a dream deferred metaphor since it can be disjunctive in some ways. The phrase might be read as “a dream that’s deferred,” but the poem does not include the words connecting the two phrases (“that” or “is”). The phrase’s musical unity is shifted by the shorter /e/ sound at the second syllable.

Finally, the word “deferred,” often associated with dreams, is not used. “To defer” literally translates to “to postpone” and “to put off.” “Deferment,” a word associated with the military draft during World War II, means that someone eligible for a draft delay would not be drafted immediately or deployed.

As it appears, the word sounds oddly bureaucratic and technical, which contrasts sharply with the visionary, compassionate idea of a “dream explaining an unrealized metaphor” at the beginning of the poem.

The central metaphor of the poem “Harlem

It is important to remember that this poem was part of a larger collection of linked jazz-inspired poetry called Montage of a Dream Deferred. It will give you context to better understand the central metaphor. Hughes considered the work a single poem of jazz-informed impressions of Harlem, Manhattan, where Hughes lived and wrote in the years following World War II.

A montage is the juxtaposition of disparate components to make a coherent meaning. Many of the poems imitate the rhythms and textures of African American music. Hughes suggests that this collection of sketches and riffs about contemporary Black life in Harlem is its ultimate subject. This poem introduces that recurring theme. It is a dream deferred metaphor.

Harlem, a national hub for the fruits of African American culture during the first half-century of the 20th century, was a center for the collective aspirations of Black America. The fabled neighborhood was also home to the same poverty, oppression, and disenfranchisement as Hughes would have experienced in his native Missouri, with Jim Crow traditions inherited from the Confederacy. It has proven a dream deferred metaphor.

The promised land of Harlem is far from a paradise. It is slick, soulful, and gritty, but it’s also a place where people rob, cheat, kill, and exploit, which can break hearts and crush dreams. For those who have pursued their dreams unabatedly, this is where one can find the pinnacle of American success and establishment. Many people cannot realize their dreams, so they put them off or pass over them. They fear that the consequences of living in a marginalized world will make them weaker, less confident, and more afraid. Spiritual death is evident in the various images of destruction and rupture displayed in the poem.

Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” creates a metaphor around a dream. He compares a dream with multiple images of destruction and death to ask “dream deferred” what happens to a dream that is delayed in fulfillment.

There is a dream deferred metaphor where he first compares deferred dreams to a “raisin under the sun,” which means that the dream has dried up and is withered. He then asks whether a delayed dream can infect “like a sore.” Hughes compares a delayed nightmare to an infected wound. If left untreated, it can become painful and infected, leading to serious health problems and even death.

The third dream deferred metaphor compares a delayed vision to “rotten food,” which is meat that has been uncooked for too long and is unsafe to eat. Hughes compares a delayed dream with inedible food and asks if it becomes so difficult to fulfill long-term dreams.

The fourth dream deferred metaphor is the delayed dream to sugar syrup. It means that the dreamer begins to see the dream as sugarcoated and makes it more appealing than it is. A sugarcoated dream could be an African American who wants to end segregation but is led to believe that sharing the planet with white people will lead to more abuses and inequalities. An African American might believe that his or her current situation is better than what he or she desires, which could lead to him or her seeing the dream as sugarcoated.

Two final comparisons that prove the dream deferred metaphor are the one of a delayed dream to a burden that is too heavy to carry and that of an explosion to something that explodes. Hughes’s last comparison of a delayed dream to an explosion is powerful, as it contrasts with his other images that depict death and destruction. Hughes compares a delayed dream with an explosion to show that dreams can be blocked from becoming a reality. However, the dreamer will eventually build up enough energy to explode in a rush to fulfill their dream. It is similar to what we witnessed with the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.

Dreams Deferred

The Montage of a Dream Deferred begins, often returns to, and ends with the theme of dreams that have been put on hold. Many of his other poems, like “Boogie,” include it. The five-line poem “Tell Me,” which opens the book, wonders why the narrator’s desire must be postponed for so long.

Deferred is a poem in which the poet intertwines the voices of individuals who want a modest but meaningful piece of the American dream. The first wants to finish high school, although he’s already twenty and grew up in the South, where he was educated in an impoverished environment. Another hopes to finally get the white enamel stove she’s wanted for the last 18 years. Another person says, “All I want to see/is the money paid for my furnishings.” People who haven’t yet been given a chance to attain the achievement they seek have created a literal montage of aspirations in Hughes’ poem.

“Harlem” in Montage of a dream deferred is possibly the most well-known poetry in the collection. First line: “What happens to a dream that is postponed?” “Dry up like a raisin in the sun,” or, more specifically, “stink like rotting flesh.” Until the last phrase, “Or does it explode?” the narrator’s similes imply that the dream will wither or fade.