Langston Hughes American Dream Essay Topic Great

Power of Langston Hughes' Harlem (A Dream Deferred) Essay

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Power of Langston Hughes' Harlem (A Dream Deferred)

In our journey through life, we all have certain expectations of how we would like our lives to be. All of us strive to reach a certain level of self-actulization and acceptance. It could thus be said that all of us live a dream. Some of these individual dreams inevitably become the collective dream of many people. In "Harlem (A Dream Deferred)", Langston Hughes makes use of symbolism as well as powerful sensory imagery to show us the emotions that he and his people go through in their quest for freedom and equality. By using questions he builds the poem towards an exciting climax.

Hughes wants to know "What happens to a dream deferred?" He asks this question as an introduction to…show more content…

It gives us an example of the resentment that is growing. People are getting more inflamed emotionally, just like the wound gets worse if not treated. It draws a clear parallel between people's emotions and the images of the sore. Just as an untreated sore will not heal, but get more infected, a deferred dream will not go away, but become more intense. A wound that gets worse will eventually start to smell bad. Hughes compares this to rotten meat. "Does it stink like rotten meat?" This image creates the idea that unrealized dreams will bring out the worst in men. It also means that for some the realization of their dreams will become less attractive.

Next he uses the symbol of sugar, or sweetness. This creates the false image that all is well, almost as if this is the way it is meant to be. However, our minds still stick to the festering sore that is under the "Sweet crust." Hughes uses this image as a transition to the only statement in the poem that is not in the form of a question.

The reason he does not use a question in the phrase; "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load," is to create an image of defeat. When people grow old and tired, their shoulders are bent as if they are carrying a heavy load. Old women's breasts sag as a result of the natural aging process. There is nothing we can do to stop aging. Eventually we all have to give up the struggle and die. Does "a dream deferred" also eventually

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James Mercer Langston Hughes was born February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents divorced when he was a young child, and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was thirteen, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband, before the family eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio. It was in Lincoln that Hughes began writing poetry. After graduating from high school, he spent a year in Mexico followed by a year at Columbia University in New York City. During this time, he held odd jobs such as assistant cook, launderer, and busboy. He also travelled to Africa and Europe working as a seaman. In November 1924, he moved to Washington, D. C. Hughes's first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, (Knopf, 1926) was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later. In 1930 his first novel, Not Without Laughter, (Knopf, 1930) won the Harmon gold medal for literature.

Hughes, who claimed Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in his book-length poem Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951). His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period—Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Countee Cullen—Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself.

The critic Donald B. Gibson noted in the introduction to Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays (Prentice Hall, 1973) that Hughes "differed from most of his predecessors among black poets . . . in that he addressed his poetry to the people, specifically to black people. During the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read . . . Until the time of his death, he spread his message humorously—though always seriously—to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people (possibly) than any other American poet."

In addition to leaving us a large body of poetic work, Hughes wrote eleven plays and countless works of prose, including the well-known “Simple” books: Simple Speaks His Mind, (Simon & Schuster, 1950); Simple Stakes a Claim, (Rinehart, 1957); Simple Takes a Wife, (Simon & Schuster, 1953); and Simple's Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965). He edited the anthologies The Poetry of the Negro and The Book of Negro Folklore, wrote an acclaimed autobiography, The Big Sea (Knopf, 1940), and cowrote the play Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991) with Zora Neale Hurston.

Langston Hughes died of complications from prostate cancer on May 22, 1967, in New York City. In his memory, his residence at 20 East 127th Street in Harlem has been given landmark status by the New York City Preservation Commission, and East 127th Street has been renamed "Langston Hughes Place."



Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)
The Panther and the Lash: Poems of Our Times (Alfred A. Knopf, 1967)
Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (Alfred A. Knopf, 1961)
Montage of a Dream Deferred (Holt, 1951)
One-Way Ticket (Alfred A. Knopf, 1949)
Fields of Wonder (Alfred A. Knopf, 1947)
Freedom's Plow (Musette Publishers, 1943)
Shakespeare in Harlem (Alfred A. Knopf, 1942)
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Knopf, 1932)
Scottsboro Limited (The Golden Stair Press, 1932)
Dear Lovely Death (Troutbeck Press, 1931)
Fine Clothes to the Jew (Alfred A. Knopf, 1927)
The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926)

Prose
Letters from Langston (University of California Press, 2016)
Selected Letters of Langston Hughes (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Remember Me to Harlem: The Letters of Langston Hughes and Carl Van Vechten, 1925–1964 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)
The Arna Bontemps-Langston Hughes Letters (Dodd, Mead, 1980)
Good Morning, Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings by Langston Hughes (Hill, 1973)
Simple's Uncle Sam (Hill and Wang, 1965)
Something in Common and Other Stories (Hill and Wang, 1963)
Tambourines to Glory (John Day, 1958)
Simple Stakes a Claim (Rinehart, 1957)
I Wonder as I Wander (Rinehart, 1956)
Laughing to Keep From Crying (Holt, 1952)
Simple Takes a Wife (Simon & Schuster, 1953)
Simple Speaks His Mind (Simon & Schuster, 1950)
The Ways of White Folks (Knopf, 1934)
Not Without Laughter (Knopf, 1930)

Drama
The Plays to 1942: Mulatto to The Sun Do Move (University of Missouri Press, 2000)
The Political Plays of Langston Hughes (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000)
Mule Bone (HarperCollins, 1991)
Five Plays by Langston Hughes (Indiana University Press, 1963)

Poetry in Translation
Cuba Libre (Anderson & Ritchie, 1948)
Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral (Indiana University Press, 1957)

Translation
Masters of the Dew (Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947)

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