Harlem (Dream Deferred)
Where It All Goes Down
While this poem's setting is ambiguous, it contains very specific images that ignite our imaginations. We can imagine our speaker is a professor in a college classroom (see the "Speaker Point of View" section). We can imagine he's a poet, writing in a small apartment, looking out the window at the bustle of Harlem below. We can imagine that he is a man sitting in a kitchen after a long day of work, looking at the things around him. Perhaps he notices raisins on the kitchen table, syrup sticking to the counter top. Maybe he feels sore from his day's work, and sees a cut on his hand. It's quiet, and his neighborhood is asleep. For the first time in a while, he has a chance to reflect on life, and he thinks about the dreams he's postponed. There's no one right answer to the question of setting in this poem. Pay attention to the imagery found within it, and let your imagination go where it will.