Harlem (Dream Deferred)
by Langston Hughes
We could talk about dreaming till the cows come home. We're all for it. But in this poem, our speaker seems to have noticed a disheartening trend – he's noticed that many people are deferring their dreams, and he's got something to say about it. As a way of reminding the world of how important dreams are, he offers a series of possible responses to the central question, "What happens when dreams are put on hold?" And these responses are kind of sobering.
- Line 1: Our speaker offers up a rhetorical question about dreams – that is, a question that does not have one answer.
- Lines 2-8 and 11: Our speaker answers his first rhetorical question about dreams with five other rhetorical questions.
- Lines 9-10: Our speaker offers one answer to his original question in the form of a declarative sentence.