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Imagery and Structure in the Poem "Harlem"

Uploaded by t-bone on Dec 18, 2003

The Use of Imagery and Structure in the Poem-"Harlem"







Have you ever heard of the phrase, "Reality Sucks"? This common phrase is often applied when hopes and dreams are not reached. When these dreams and hopes are not fulfilled, it leaves us when many unanswered questions. This concept is illustrated in the Poem, Harlem, written by Langston Hughes. Hughes uses many examples of imagery and structure within the poem, all of these circulating around the central theme of unfilled dreams.

Hughes illustrates imagery through the first two phrases, ‘What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?’ Being an African-American, Hughes had insight into the many dreams of his people. During the time period the poem was written, African-Americans had limited access to fulfilling their hopes and dreams. Hughes begins to illustrate this by comparing a dream deferred (unfulfilled) to a grape drying up in the sun. The grape illustrates the dream. Grapes are meant to be made into wine. The older the wine becomes the better the wine tastes. In other words, the wine symbolizes success, while the raisin symbolizes poverty. By using such imagery, Hughes captures his readers immediately.
Within the poem, he structures his questions, to set the mood of his point of view. The third and fourth line,” Does it fester like a sore, then run?’ Hughes makes his readers feel like he has experienced some of the same heartbreaks they have endured. He compares an unfilled dream to a sore that will never go away. Many times in our lives, we have regrets about situations. His questions are really the answers. For example, a dream unfilled always haunts us because we constantly question ourselves with the question of “what if”? . He also illustrates this concept in the final lines, “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load”. He combines the imagery of a big heavy bag with the imagery of carrying a bag of regret.
Although Hughes wrote this poem in the mid 1960’s, it can still be applied to the lives of everyone. Everyone has dreams, and everyone has hopes. Sometimes these dreams are reached, and many times they are not. Life brings many situations and circumstances, and with those come many unanswered questions. Sometimes we deal with them, and sometimes we simply...

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Uploaded by:   t-bone

Date:   12/18/2003

Category:   Literature

Length:   2 pages (386 words)

Views:   5321

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