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Harlem (Dream Deferred)

Harlem (Dream Deferred)

by Langston Hughes

Dreams

Symbol Analysis

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.

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