“Harlem” by Langston Hughes Analysis

Category: Culture
Date added
2021/04/21
Pages:  3
Words:  878
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“The short poem “Harlem” is one of many famous literary works created by Langston Hughes; Hughes was an African – American poet, social activist, and novelist. He was known for putting personal experiences into the meanings of his literary works. “Harlem” was no different in its creation to represent the struggles against racial discrimination the African American community was facing in America during the 1920’s. This essay will explore an in-depth meaning of the short but powerful, relatable, and understandable poem; All while also covering how Hughes uses metaphors, similes, and anaphora within the poem and what significance each device has.

To understand the impact and meaning of the previously mentioned literary devices, there must be a basic understanding of the poem and what message it’s getting across. “Harlem” also known under the title, “A Dream Deferred” describes giving up on your dreams and leaving the satisfying feeling of seeing your goals become accomplished go unfulfilled. The title of the poem, “”Harlem,”” implies that the specific dream was shared by a community of people; The dream of equal rights. Hughes was widely known for his literary works which shared the common theme of educating his readers on the aspects and issues faced by an African-American. “Hughes writes to remind a people who had been enslaved that their history began long before 1619…(reminding) them that their (history) is not a legacy of enslavement.” (Standish) Hughes uses common poetic and literary devices to create imagery in the poem; Created with the goal to vividly show what could happen if anyone denies their own dream and goals. For the first example, He uses similes constantly throughout the poem; The series of similes are used in the poem to compare a dream dying away due to multiple forms of a slow death, such as rotting and aging. Hughes compares the reality of giving up on achieving a dream by vividly describing it as death. The poem describes the dream’s death to a “drying raisin”, a “burning sore”, “rotten meat”, “syrup”, and a “heavy load.” (Hughes)

Hughes use of metaphors describe what can happen to a group of people if their dreams are left for dead. The title of the poem itself can be seen as a metaphor, a reference to a time where African-American culture was beginning to have a positive light shown on it. The poem “Harlem” has been viewed as “- a public disagreement that portrayed black America itself as being in disagreement about how to best go about the notion of cultural desegregation.” (Standish) This idea was due to the ironic factor that, while yes the title references a time of which should be celebrated because their culture was being viewed with acceptance and interest, the poem itself is talking about a dream being left for dead- the very dream of not just their culture being accepted, but to identify as equal to whites. “Hughes always sought to reclaim the stage for black characters.” (Emery) As for metaphors within the poems’ text, If it “dries up like a raisin in the sun” (Hughes), the suggestion is that it has been thrown to the backburner of one’s mind and priorities. He also uses other metaphorical explanations within the poem such as “rotting like meat” (Hughes) in which these notions of death describe passage of time and a dreams’ loss of life, and loss of the inspiration that sustained it. These metaphors seem to signify how the African American people were coming to the belief that their dreams for equality becoming less and less of a reality.

The final, most noticable, literary device used within the poem is one ironically not commonly known. Hughes uses an ongoing phrase within the poem “”Does it””; It’s an example of anaphora, which is “the repetition of a word or phrase at the start of a series of sentences, phrases or clauses.” (Anaphora) Used within the poem, anaphora helps to emphasize the question, and therefore emphasize the message, making it more clear to the readers how urgent the situation at hand was and hopefully bring about action to keep the dream for equality alive. Some smaller, but still noticeable and important, literary devices are some such as alliteration, which is found in the letter D, “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up…” (Hughes) The use of alliteration and Anaphora help to create a sense of rhythm, as it emphasizes the words, drawing attention to the ideas in them.

In conclusion, Langston Hughes used his skills in creating literary works to describe his significant life experienced and show readers the situations and thoughts African Americans have to face, such as giving up on the simple dream of being treated equal to others. Hughes use of literary devices are used in a way drag in reader’s attention to the messages within the poem. The devices bring the reader’s attention to the stated questions, making them further think and process the exact imagery Hughes describes. This helps readers to better visibly see the images through their blatant descriptions; The reader has a much better understanding of the extreme measures the dream itself is facing, and how dire the situation is, as it’s slowly being left for dead by its’ creator.”

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“Harlem” by Langston Hughes Analysis. (2021, Apr 21). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/harlem-by-langston-hughes-analysis/

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