Harlem (Dream Deferred)
by Langston Hughes
Our speaker is like a really cool professor who is super smart and who asks the best questions. We imagine him standing in front of a classroom, letting the chatter and nervous energy die down. He adjusts the glasses on the edge of his nose and stares at the room full of anxious and excited scholars-in-the-making, and he poses a single, simple question, "Class, what happens to a dream deferred?" Silence. More silence. He doesn't care. He knows the best way to get a response is to let his students sit and think for a little while. After a few minutes, no one has offered an answer. It seems like a trick question, maybe. The professor offers some possible solutions, but (like any good teachers) he does not give the answer. His students notice a sense of reverence in the way he's talking about dreams, and suddenly they start to think about dreams in a different way, in a more concrete way. When he suggests that dreams explode when they are deferred, there's a glimmer in his eye.
To watch a great mind reflect on something as seemingly commonplace as a dream is a big deal. But the coolest thing about this professor is that he does not feel the need to use big, clumsy, academic words. He does not feel the need to intimidate with his knowledge. He merely puts a simple question to his students, because he's more interested in hearing what they have to say than he is in filling the room with his own ideas. We know that something very important is taking place, and we know this is a class we will have a hard time forgetting.