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The African American Dream

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The Harlem Renaissance was a period of time, from the 1920's to the 1940's, when African Americans used culture such as art, music, and literature to help fight for their rights and equality. At this time many questions plagued the minds of African Americans in Harlem. Langston Hughes' poem "Harlem [Dream Deferred]," starts by asking a question that anyone may ask African Americans. Then the poem quickly develops into a series of similes and imagery. The tone of frustration and possibly even anger is quite evident in Hughes' words.

Hughes asks many questions in this poem, and most people would expect that the questions would also be answered. However, that is not the case. "Hughes's poem raises serious questions about the fulfillment of the American ideal of justice and equality that continues to be postponed by racist actualities against African Americans" (Babacar M'Baye). The first line of this poem asks "What happens to a dream deferred?" (1). For most people there are many possible answers to that question; it just depends on what kind of dream is being talked about. This line leads people to think about all the different types of dreams that they have had in life and what the dreams have meant. But for most African Americans their dreams were shot down by others, and were told their dreams would never come true.

The following lines ask a question or suggest an answer, depending upon how people prefer to look at it. Most probably wouldn't associate with deferring or trying to forget or repress a goal in life. Hughes uses similes to give suggestive answers to his poem "Does it dry up/like a raisin in the sun?" (2,3). This figurative question could be asking does the dream become useless and no good like a dried up hard raisin after sitting in the sun. Could it get hard and be forgotten after more time passes and the dreams are not used.

The next line in Hughes poem builds anxiety inside many of African Americans. Do dreams "fester like a sore/and then run?" (4,5). If dreams fester like sores, until there is no place left for it to go and it just explodes, the explosion or the oozing of the sore can be good, in causing you to follow your dreams. Because, the oozing could signal healing of a wound, or come to terms with a shattered dream. It can be bad and cause you to run from your dreams and turn to negative things in life.

When dreams are left sitting unattended for too long, they may stink and rot away, "like rotten meat" (6). When meat is left out too long, it begins to spoil and stink. This is what happens to dreams when they are left unattended. Dreams can be wasted away if they are pushed to the back of minds for long enough, for example, when children dream of becoming president. When children are continually told they will never achieve this dream, they just push it aside and the dreams end up wasting away.

Hughes use

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