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


  1. Ally says:

    this is a very weird but nicely written poem!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Billy says:

    It is very good and shows a lot of meaning

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. Robert says:

    probably the most popular work of Mr. Hughes

  9. 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!!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. jasmine says:

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

  14. 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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!

  17. Kameryn says:

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. Jazz says:

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

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