Harlem (Dream Deferred)
by Langston Hughes
Analysis: Form and Meter
Free Verse, Irregular Meter
Free, free, free! Six questions and one very meek declarative sentence compose the bones of this poem – it's a poem built of questions, and questions makes us think of uncertainty and the quest for knowledge. If you are totally enticed by our speaker's first question, prepare to be a little flummoxed by the ensuing poem, because we never do get a definitive answer. Something tells us that is exactly the point.
"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. With each line, our speaker mixes it up. Some lines are short, others longer. Some lines contain only monosyllabic words, other are chock full of syllables. There are three instances of rhyming, while the rest of the poem is rhymeless. So what's with all the inconsistency? Perhaps our speaker wants us to feel a little frustrated. Like a brilliant teacher, he might just be making us feel the consequences of deferring our dreams as he suggests them to us.