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Nathanael's avatar

What does this mean?

Asked by Nathanael (289points) January 17th, 2008

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?... Or does it explode”
A quote by Langsten Hughes, what does it mean?

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5 Answers

Mangus's avatar

Like any poetic statement, it’s open to interpretation. To me, he’s speaking generally about what happens to a person when their dreams are put off or out of reach. If your dreams remain our of reach, do you shrivel, drawing inward as hope becomes less and less? Or does the inaccessibility of your dreams create tension? Does the distance of the dream create frustration and anger, corrupting the soul and eventually creating an explosion of action or emotion?

I’m not sure about the date of publication, but I have to assume that Hughes is writing about the experience of black communities in the US. Think MLK’s dream. What happens when the dreams of equality, prosperity, health, and safety are deferred? What does it do to a people’s soul?

bob's avatar


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?

Note that the poem is titled “Harlem” in Hughes’s book Montage of a Dream Deferred (1951). It’s reasonable to assume Hughes is referring to the dreams of people who live in Harlem. Mangus’s interpretation above is spot on, except I’d say that Hughes isn’t just asking questions—he’s using the questions to suggest that the deferred dream does cause, in Mangus’s words, “an explosion of action or emotion.”

I’ve got to get out of grad school.

WVPHOTOG's avatar

The poem means very little.(IMHO)

A dream deferred is a dream postponed or delayed.

The poem asks several questions most of which have little meaning other than to inspire thought about the initial question.

What happened to the dreams you delayed? Do you still have them or are they gone?

Mangus's avatar

Ah. Well, the title contributes a lot, doesn’t it?

Nathanael's avatar

it means I suck. The end.

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