The poem, “Dream Deferred”, which was written by Langston Hughes in 1951 , described the trials that minorities in that time period underwent. Hughes uses heavy symbolism and imagery in this poem. The dream he discussed in the poem was futile at the time of his writing of the poem. In the poem, “Dream Deferred”, the author uses a significant amount of symbolism to express the broken dream of racial equality.
The question Hughes poses in line one, “What happens to a dream deferred?” sets the environment for the plot and symbolism of the rest of the poem. As Hughes answers the question, he asks if a dream deferred dries up like a raisin in the sun. This symbol means that a dream that is disintegrating and dying like a raisin left out in the sun. If a raisin is left out in the sun too long, it will inevitably die. The same principle can apply to a dream left in the mind too long. The environment will kill the dream if it is left idle for a lengthy period of time. It will wither up and die, just like the raisin in the sun.
Hughes continues to make his point through the symbols of inanimate objects as the poem progresses. In addition, all of the symbolic statements except the final one are similes. In lines four and five, the statement, “Or fester like a sore–And then run?” is extremely symbolic. The visual picture of a sore festering and then finally breaking open and running is again equal to the broken dream of racial equality. The dream of racial equality grows in the body like a sore. When the dream fails, it breaks open and could fall prey to outside poisons. These poisons can lead to destruction. Racial riots and other such instances are examples of this destruction. Hughes even furthers his use of symbolism in line six, “Does it stink like rotten meat?” A dream that is left out too long without the proper care it needs will start to stink like meat left out of the refrigerator.
The final line, “Or does it explode?” is representing an explosion similar to one of a bomb. When something explodes, it is blown to pieces which cannot be put back together, or only with a great amount of time, labor, and difficulty. This is what happened to the “Dream Deferred”.
The title, “Dream Deferred”, is a symbol in itself. It represents the dream of racial equality. It also can be used to represent the failure of any other significant dream. When a dream is delayed for an exorbitant amount of time, it has failed for that generation. At the time of the poem’s origin, this dream was considerably delayed. It was generally considered nothing but a hopeless dream.
In the poem, “Dream Deferred”, by Langston Hughes, the extensive use of symbolism expressed the dream of racial equality. It illustrated the condition of a dream put on hold indefinitely. This poem was also put into the beginning of the play, “Raisin In the Sun”, which also describes the battle for racial equality. The poem, “Dream Deferred”, can be related to any dream, even if it is not the dream Hughes was writing about. A dream deferred is a dream that is on the road to self-destruction.