Interpretation of Poem “Harlem”- Langston Hughes
This short poem is one of Hughes’s most famous works; it is likely the most common Langston Hughes poem taught in American schools. Hughes wrote "Harlem" in 1951, and it addresses one of his most common themes - the limitations of the American Dream for African Americans. The poem has eleven short lines in four stanzas, and all but one line are questions.
The last line, "Or does it explode?" is an example of a metaphor. The writer implies that a postponed dream--destroys, causes a violent or even disturbing emotional reaction. Langston Hughes was a successful African-American poet of the Harlem renaissance in the 20th century. Hughes' had a simple and cultured writing style. "Harlem" is filled with rhythm, jazz, blues, imagery, and evokes vivid images within the mind. The poem focuses on what could happen to deferred dreams. Hughes' aim is to make it clear that if you postpone your dreams you might not get another chance to attain it--so take those dreams and run. Each question associates with negative effects of deferred dreams. The imagery from the poem causes the reader to be pulled in by the writer's words.
Few works by Hughes, or by many other authors for that matter, get more attention than “Mother to Son,” which makes it an excellent representation of those so-called vogue works. As great as the poem is, there are so many other works that show the range of Langston Hughes’s abilities as a writer, and reading them analytically, especially in relation to each other and to “Mother to Son” gives readers a much better understanding of why Langston Hughes is a household name. As Nifong pointed out, The Ways of White Folks in and of itself is an excellent study of point of view. Given that it is a literary study in its own right, it is somewhat remarkable that it should be collection written entirely by a single author. Additionally, the comparison of these works adds depth to what a reader may have gotten from reading the poem, “Mother to Son.”
Summing up, Langston Hughes poem “Harlem” is about what could happen when an entire African-American population is oppressed and must ignore or postpone their dreams. The more dreams are postponed the more the dreams will not happen and in the poem it is clear that Hughes has a very strong opinion on the subject.
Francis, Ted. Realism in the Novels of the Harlem Renaissance. New York, Lincoln, Shanghai: Writers Club Press, 2002. Web.
Hughes, Langston. The Ways of White Folks. New
York: Vintage Classics, 1933. Kindle.
–. “Mother to Son.” Tnellen. Web. Nifong, David M. “Narrative Technique and Theory in The Ways of White Folks.” Black American Literature Forum, 15 (3): 1981. Web.