The most obvious quality of Longs Hughes’ “Harlem” is the poem’s use of imagery. The imagery in this poem contributes to the image of the frustrating times of how dreams end up for African Americans during this time period. The speaker in the poem describes the fate of a dream being “deferred. ” Longs Hughes uses several analogies to describe the image of a dream that might have happened but didn’t.
He describes the dream as “drying up like a raisin in the sun” and “festering like a sore. ” These uses of similes portray the tone of the poem to be dark and somber. The image of these things invites the reader to feel the speaker’s dreams that Just wasted away. “Harlem” consists of eleven lines broken into four stanzas. The first and last stanzas contain one line, while the other two contain seven and two lines respectively. Longs Hughes gives the poem rhythmic feel through his use of alliteration, rhyme, and repetition.
More than likely, the speaker is African American and is expressing the feelings and lost dreams of African Americans in Harlem during time of the Harlem Renaissance. The speaker in this poem feels motivated to question what really happens to the dreams of African Americans that are Just pushed away and discarded. In the first analogy Longs Hughes questions if a deferred dream “dries up like a raisin in the sun” (lines 2-3). This is painting the image off large ripe grape eventually getting old and dried overtime and becoming a raisin because of the heat from the sun.
This analogy ties into the dreams of African Americans because during this time period they had hopes and dreams of a better life but the dreams would eventually dry up and become nothing because of the struggles that they endured. He also compares a dream to a “festering sore” (line 4). This use of imagery portrays the image of the pain that a person goes through as they wait around for a dream that will never happen. In the last Longs Hughes says “or does it explode? ” (line 11).
Hughes italicized this line to show the importance of how several dreams of African Americans have exploded. The image of an explosion right in our faces as if the dream is finally gone and no longer around. This last line is very powerful and it indicates how a person can only take so much before they Just “explode,” Just like the ream could only live so long in someone’s heart before it finally Just explodes and is gone. Longs Hughes also uses repetition throughout the poem.
The repeated phrase of “does it” is an anaphora that helps to emphasize how serious the question is. He wants the reader to really question what happens to the dreams. In line 2, “Does it dry up,” alliteration is found. Hughes uses this use of alliteration to help highlight attention to the ideas in the questions he is asking. The most obvious quality of Longs Hughes’ “Harlem” is the poem’s use of imagery. The imagery in his poem contributes to the image of the frustrating times of how dreams end up for African Americans during this time period.
Just like any other American, African American’s had dreams and aspirations for their lives. But because of the discrimination that they faced it was very difficult for them to achieve. Longs Hughes use of imagery cause the reader to question their own dreams and what has happened to them. The dreams of African Americans “festering like a sore” and “sagging like a heavy load” cause the reader to feel sympathy for the times that they went through and even look back on their own dreams that were never achieved.