What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Analysis, meaning and summary of Langston Hughes's poem Dream Deferred

49 Comments

  1. doom says:

    This is a very short and easy to read.

  2. Ciel says:

    I loved this poem ever since i first came across it, loved it to much i didn’t know why…. i guess i just knew deep in myself that one day i’ll be wondering these same thoughts on and on, day and night like i am now…. the answer is yet to come…. maybe when it does i’ll just add it to the poem and publish it again.lol

  3. daines says:

    It is a nice poem. it is a metaphorical kind of a poem which encorages readers to read with open mind.

  4. Ebenezer Baawuah says:

    i love the poem about dream deferred.is fantastic and sensitive

  5. Michael Dressner says:

    I think Bibi hit the nail on the head with it explodes

  6. kenneth melton says:

    I think it is the best poem I have ever read Dream Deferred is one of I read at my school black history and it is a great.

  7. Jamie Taylor says:

    I think that this is my favorite of all of his works. It makes you think and uses great metaphors and similies.

  8. Heather says:

    Yes, This actually is a really great poem although the corect name is ‘Harlem’ Not Dream Deferred.

  9. Ankit Tejpal says:

    according to me, the poem is the product of profound introspection of probabilities or rather anticipations. Langston perhaps is trying to ask, does the long awaited dream dry up and becomes futile or does it keep on bleeding blood and pus like a festering sore whose pain reminds one of the unfulfilled dream. Maybe, it exacerbates and disgusts people like a rotten meat or it ends by superficial sympathy but no result just like the syrup crusts superficially over the sweets. and lastly, maybe it gets tired and frustrated and buries itself like a heavy load or maybe, it results in an explosion which fetches the fruits of that dream.

  10. bria says:

    this poem really touches the heart

  11. chris says:

    I like explosions! I think at the end you should put that it does explode!!!!!!!!! YEEEEAAAAHHHH!

  12. juanita says:

    el lituratura es muy buen. me gusta la definition estrecho.

  13. devin says:

    this is a magnificent poem…really touches the heart, know what i mean? but yeah…email me if there are anymore as awesome as this one

  14. Caroline says:

    this is a very well written poem

  15. Christina G. says:

    I don’t know if we can write rebutals to poems on here or not but I just wanted to ask everyone what they thought. So here it goes:

    *****Alone*****

    What happens to someone left alone?
    Do they try to make it on their own?
    Or do they give up and think its no use?
    Do they dry up like clothes put out on the line?
    Or continue to grow like grapes on a vine?
    Maybe, just maybe, they take the time to see what they can really be.
    Or do they just decide to run forever?

    Be honest people…What do you think? I can handle the truth!

  16. Brighton solomon says:

    this poem is great i loved it. it is an insprational poem for all and this sounds really cheesey so i’ll stop typing right about now.

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  18. katome says:

    what shawn dennis said. if you dont care about a dream whats the point of dreaming them. i think that poem is great and it plays in our everday lives. i know it does in mine.

  19. Cori Thompson says:

    I think the poem was good

  20. Justin says:

    this story was ok..

  21. Evan says:

    that is a great poem. if n/e body has poems or knows of n/e like this one e-mail me it please. and thank you in advance

  22. BLACKQUEEN says:

    AS A POET AND WRITTER I FIND MY MUSE WITHIN LANSTON HUGHES POETRY AND WRITTINGS. I FEEL THE STRUGGLE AND WITNESS THE INDIFFERENCE WITHIN OUR SOCIAL AND POLITICAL STRUCTURE. IT ALLOWS ME TO PLANT MY SEEDS OF WITNESS AND HOPEFULLY IGNITE ANOTHERS FIRE AND SENSE OF RESPONSIBLITY TO MY PEOPLE FIRST, AND SECONDLY TO JOIN ONCE AGAIN A GROUP OF PEOPLE WILLING TO PICK UP THE STRUGGLE AND PROCEED FORWARD UNTIL WE CAN TRUELY CALL THIS OUR COUNTRY

  23. Tina says:

    Great similie and deep feelings!! Though this is an assignment I need tp work on, there’s no pressure. I felt relieved instead. Reading such an inspiring poem gave me strength again. As a big fan of Martin Luther King Jr., I love the indication and the spirit of this”Dream Deffered”.

  24. Shawn Dennis says:

    This poem has played a major part in my life. I’ve used time after time for projects and papers. Its just so real. If we don’t follow our dreams then what is the point of having them?

  25. Mr. B. says:

    I feel that the usage of similies to portray the postponed dreams, goals, and desires of the mass population is brilliant. The usage of the the metaphor in the poem’s climactic moment is just as ingenious of Hughes. The representation of the black population’s frustration, and their imanent explosion is well fitting. These explosions can easily be represented with race riots that so often occured during the times where the Jim Crow Laws were rampid in the United States.

  26. J J says:

    This is a great poem by langston hughes. In just a few lines he was able to convey black opression ( a.k.a the dream) into a metaphor that carried a significant (and sometimes controversial)meaning. Well done.

  27. Kelly Taras says:

    I first read this poem in my Comp. 2 class.As a disabled white woman I felt empathy afterwards.

  28. Henry says:

    Well, I have to memorize this poem in my Writing and Communications class my Senior year, and I am glad I did. This is such a rich and well developed poem, describing various outcomes of a dream deferred, raising in severty each time until ultimatly, the worst outcome arises. This poem originally was intented to convey the angry and fustration of Harlem in the 1910’s to the 1940’s. Still as brillant today as it was 50 years ago, this poem is can be desribed in one word: Timeless.

  29. louise says:

    I wonder if the film A Raisin in the Sun took its title from this brilliant poem?

  30. Ally says:

    this is a very weird but nicely written poem!

  31. Bibi says:

    The word “explodes” is very powerful… I wonder what Hughes meant. On the most personal intimate level, the explosion of the mind, the torment of the individual soul, the burst of beautiful creativity arising from frustrated dreams… Or are we, today, seeing rotten decay of the social structure, the shrivelled souls of honest, hardworking, people working toward an end that seems to promise futility, or does it explode by the burst of energy that promises only wonderful and beautiful outcomes from all the surpressed longings? Such a beautiful poem, this is, that even I, a non-black immigrant, can appreciate its intimate largess.

  32. KWENITA LEWIS says:

    I first read this poem while a freshman in college at Grambling State University. It was during the LA riots and I always thought Langton expressed the actions after the Rodney King verdict better than any newscast or debate. Ultimately, a dream deferred will explode.

  33. dan says:

    Langston uses rhetorical questions and similes to show that if we do not realize our dreams doubt will comsume us and a sprial of despair will start.

  34. Billy says:

    It is very good and shows a lot of meaning

  35. Malinda Butler says:

    Langston Hughes’ poem Dream Deferred is one which I have chosen to use in my 7th grade English classes as part of a unit of poetry. I enjoy showing students different types of poems, as well as poems of different moods. Dream Deferred is one which I hope will inspire some of my students to attempt goals instead of abandoning them. I asked them the question today in class, “Which is worse? To try and fail, or to never try at all?” Unfortunately, many students said that to try and then fail was more upsetting to them than to never have tried at all. Oh, how I wish they would not defer their dreams!

  36. Gabe says:

    I think that this poem just goes to show the absolute genius of Langston Hughes as a poet. A poet of the caliber of Hughes can write a poem that can have a myriad of meanings and have one meaning at the same time. This poem is like that. I think this poem speaks of the effects that unrealized dreams have on individuals. For some, those dreams just linger at the inmost parts of who we are. For a few others, those dreams explode and take on whole new meanings and they morph into something more powerful and influential.

  37. Robert says:

    probably the most popular work of Mr. Hughes

  38. Tanya says:

    What really does happen to a dream deferred? I think it becomes a fantasy, as the longer you put it off, the longer it takes to realize. Follow your dreams..they are the guideposts of your earthy mission!!

  39. adsfasdf says:

    You all have a great view on this poem, however, since I love it so much I feel the need to correct you. The true title of the poem is “Harlem.” Although it is a common mistake to call it, “A Dream Deferred,” as it is from the extended poem made up of many small poems called, “Montage of a Dream Deferred.” However, he wanted this actual short poem to be called, “Harlem.” Many people make this mistake.

  40. nakia says:

    this is a very nice poem, I’m a college student and I took africian american history at ddc. my instructor said this was one of his favorite poems and I certainly agree. It’s a strong poem and it’s a poem that makes you think.

  41. liu jue says:

    My teacher recommanded us to read this poem. I like it very much.But I feel a little bit sad after reading. Is it a sad poem?

  42. jasmine says:

    this poem is one of the most touching poems i ever read

  43. Edna says:

    The migration of African-Americans from the South to the North during the 1950’s and other times led to the realization that the dream could not always be achieved due to economic conditions and racism in the North.

  44. Tosha Arriola says:

    Langston Hughes was referring to Martin Luther King Jr.s “Dream” of equality and opportunities for African Americans in the U.S. His references to drying up-mean to be forgotten, to fester is to get infected like a sore shows pain, and stink like rotton meat refers to decay. His reference to sagging is the weight that bears down on black souls and the explode refers to violence if equality is not obtained soon! Graet poem!

  45. Anna says:

    This poem is one of the most touching ones I have ever read, and I´m going to use it in my homework. I think this poem represents all those dreams that couldn´t come true because of the people dreaming them. It shouts to you: Make your dreams come true, before it´s to late!

  46. Kameryn says:

    I loved this poem so much this the only poem I like.

  47. jules says:

    The Harlem poem (also known as “A Dream Deferred”) by Langston Hughes, published in 1951 as part of Montage of a Dream Deferred, an extended poem cycle about Harlem life. The 11-line poem speculates about the consequences of white society’s withholding of equal opportunity, and concludes by suggesting that a dream deferred may explode.

  48. adm says:

    A dream that is postponed or delayed…blacks during this time had a dream of having civil equality and equal rights… if that dream was put aside for a time… will dry up like a raisin, stink like rotten meat, etc…which mean will it be forgotten or never brought up again… that is what he’s asking in his poem

  49. Jazz says:

    This poem is increddiable ,I used this poem in a contest and won

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