The Importance and Meaning of Dream in Langston Hughes' "Dream (A Deferred Dream)"

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The Importance and Meaning of Dream in Langston Hughes PoemHarlem (A Dream Deferred)"By: Carla Thurmanita

AbstractIn this presentation, the writer tries to analyze the poem written by Langston Hughes, "A Dream Deferred". The purpose of this analysis is to be able to understand the deep meaning beyond the words in this poem. And to analyze it, the writer will use figurative languages appeared in this poem. It can be concluded that figurative languages have a big role in the process of understanding this poem.

IntroductionTo understand poetry, we have to not only see the words from the surface just like what most people do, but from the inside. Most poetry has hidden meaning beyond the literal words in it. Harlem (A Dream Deferred) written by Langston Hughes is one of many poems that also has deep interpretation in its words. Personally, dream is something that is crucial in life. Here in this poem, Hughes tries to mediate his thoughts about the importance of dream and share it to people. This poem represents all the dreamers, whether the ones who strive for it or just put their dreams in the dusty corner of themselves. How Hughes represents it all is interesting for the writer to analyze this poem.

TheoryFigurative Language(s)The writer finds figurative languages in Harlem (A Dream Deferred) are in order to make the readers understand the poem well.a Figure of Speech is any way of saying something other than the ordinary way.. Figurative Languagelanguage using figures of speechis language that cannot be taken literally. (Laurence Perrine, Sound and Sense: 65)In other way, figurative language will help the readers to see beyond the literal words meaning in the poem, and dismiss the confusion in understanding the poem. There are several figurative languages in Langston Hughess Harlem (A Dream Deferred) that the writer analyzes.

Figurative Languages in Langston Hughes Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

1. Simile

Simile is a figure of speech that comparing one thing to other different thing by using like, as, or than. As Richard Taylor explains in his book Understanding the Elements of Literature, he said Such figures are known as similes and are so recognized because a stated comparison is being made using the words like or as. (1981: 168)

2. Metaphor

Metaphor, according to George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their book Metaphor We Live by, metaphor is a device of the poetic imagination and the rethorical flourisha matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. (1980: 3)

3. Overstatement (Hyperbole)

Perrine writes that overstatement, or hyperbole, is simply exaggeration but exaggeration in the service of truth (1984:110). A sentence for example: There were literally millions of people at the dance! is to emphasize The dance hall was very crowded!

4. Symbol

Symbol, according to Richard Taylor, symbol means to represent or to stand for (stand in place of) include under subdivisions or distinctions according to the kind of meaning and the way in which it is a sign. (1981: 175-176) It can be said that symbol acquires meaning through the context of particular work, because symbols mean beyond the dictionary meaning of the words.

5. Repetition (Anaphora)

As explained in the webpage of Cummings Study Guide, anaphora is a kind of repetition that repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of word groups occurring one after the other. Examples: (1) Give me wine, give me women and give me song. (

Biography and PoetryLangston Hughes was born on February 1st, 1902 in Joplin, Missouri. He was an American poet, social activist, novelist, short story writer, playwright, and columnist. His work was deeply influenced by jazz for he was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance. He rose to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and continued to produce experimental and groundbreaking work for the next several decades. That is why Hughes's life and work were enormously influential during the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes was known for vocalizing the concerns of working-class African Americans.Until now, he is still considered as one of the most renowned contributors to American literature in the 20th century.

Harlem (A Dream Deferred) 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?

ParaphraseThe poem tells the picture the things that are likely going to happen when a dream is postponed by its dreamer. It will dry up like a dry and heated raisin, rot like a left unhealed wound, stink like a rotten meat, ossified like a left-opened sugary sweets, and keep loosing like a heavy sag or rope.

DiscussionThis poem Harlem (A Dream Deferred) by Langston Hughes clearly brings the theme of dream. In this poem, Hughes wants to tell the readers, what would happen to a dream when weas human beingsput aside and defer it. How the image of a deferred dream explained in this poem is seen by figurative languages that appear in this poem. As the writer analyzes more, figurative language that is mostly used in this poem is simile, and the other figurative languages are also used, which are metaphor, overstatement (hyperbole), symbol and repetition (anaphora).

To analyze the deeper meaning in this poem, the writer is going to discuss this line by line using the literary theories that appear in this poem.

What happens to a dream referred? (stanza 1, line 1)

The writer sees that in this line, the speaker questions the readers about what will happen with the dreams that are deferredput aside and postponed. What will be the fate for this kind of dream? As writer sees it, this line is such a strong opening because it offers a question that can make the readers become anxious with the following lines. The readers become anxious with what would be the answer of this question.

Does it dry uplike a raisin in the sun? (stanza 1 line 2-3)

These following lines are back to the form of question, but this time this kind of question is somehow an answer to the first line. The speaker seems wondering to himself about what the deferred dream would be. We can see that there is a simile appears in these lines. We already know that simile is comparison and substitution being made using the words like or as. The speaker compares the deferred dream to a raisin. As we all already know, raisins first form is grape, and grape becomes raisin once it loses its juice inside it and then dried up under the sun. The form of the grape will change. Raisin is dry and so is deferred dream. Because when the juicethe life inside a dream vanishes because being left away, the dream will also change its form. The dream will not be alive. The longer the dream is waited on, the more it will become unrecognizable.

Or fester like a soreAnd then run? (stanza 1 line 4-5)

In these following lines, we will meet another simile. This time, the speaker is wonderinghe compares the deferred dream to a festered sore. Imagine an open wound that being left without proper healing, of course it will fester. And when the fester is not being healed, the blood inside it will runthe wound will keep bleeding and make it more wounded or even infected. It is the same with a dream that is being ignoredbeing left away. An unfulfilled dream will fester inside the dreamer. The longer the dream waits to be executed, the longer the dreamer lingered by the pain. It will cause disappointment, regret and anger that keep running inside him, because an unfulfilled dream will not just heal and go away. Otherwise, it will become more intense. But then, a fester sore that run somehow will heal eventually. In the meantime, the deferred dream will not be ignored forever.

Does it stink like rotten meat?Or crust and sugar overLike a syrupy sweet? (stanza 1 line 6-8)

Here we will meet more similes in these lines. Now the speaker compares the deferred dream to foods, which are rotten meat and crusted sweets. We all know that rotten meat, or every rotten food stink really badly. The horrible smell coming from the rotten meat will also annoy us. The same thing happens with a syrupy sweet. The word syrupy somehow reminds us of syrup that has sticky form. When sticky sweets like candy, jam, honey are being leftopen, no matter how beautiful and sweets they are, they will crust or sugar over. Both similes are similar to the deferred dream. An ignored dream will just rot as the time goes byas we leave them undone. And the image of that unfulfilled dream will give some effects to us. The image of that unfulfilled dream will keep haunting us in our lifethe same like the smell of rotten meatas dreams are not easily forgotten.

And the comparison to crusted sweets reminds us of no matter how sweet and beautiful our dreams are at the beginning, if we only ignore and postpone them, the dreams will only be dreams, or rather, the dreams will be bitter in the end, like the unusual taste of sweets that crust for too long. But then, the speaker somehow reminds us to do something with that ignored dream, so the dream will be something. Because when the smell of rotten meat keeps annoying and haunting us, when the sweets crust because being left open, at least we have to do something to kill the smell away and to avoid the sweets become rotten. Throwing the rotten meat away and pu