Thursday, June 09, 2011

Group 2 "Harlem"- Langston Hughes

1. What is your interpretation of the poem? What can you offer in terms of interpretation that can help deepen the understanding of the poem? What continues to confuse you? What do you notice about the use of poetic devices?

2. Comment on a classmate's interpretaion and/or question(s).


  1. One thing that continues to confuse me is the title of the poem. I don't know why it's called harlem. My interpretation of the poem is that people should follow their dreams. Hughes offers several possibilities as to what happens to a dream that is deferred. One line I agree which is
    "Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load."
    IF you have a dream you want to accomplish, but never get to pursue it, it will always be in the back of your mind. There'd always be a spot in your mind thinking you could have reached your dream.

    There are a lot of uses of similes in the poem: "like a raisin in the sun", "like a sore", "like a syrupy sweet" "like a heavy load". All these similes attempt to describe a deferred dream. There are also uses of imagery: “raisin in the sun,” “fester like a sore— / And then run,” “stink like rotten meat,” etc. And finally, there's a metaphor in the last line:

    "Or does it explode?"

    -anjita p.6

  2. Our group thought that this poem was basically about forgotten dreams.

    "Hey dad, I want to go to school to become an artist"

    Imagine the kid goes to law school, leads an unhappy life that's unfulfilling. He is the opiademy of Willy Loman. He's just leading a blind life in the shadow of his father/other parental figures. Like Willy and his business man shenanigans.
    But what happens to his dreams of being an artist?
    Do they linger in his mind?
    Are they forever lost and overshadowed by his current reality?

    That's what I think this poem is about.

    Olivia N. Period 6.

  3. I agree with what Olivia said. If you want to live a fulfilling life, you have to go with your dreams despite whatever. You might have to defy your parents' and the society's ideals, but it's be better than an unfulfilling life that consists of regrets.

    anjita p.6

  4. I agree with many things that Anjita commented on about the poem. I really don't understand why the title is 'Harlem.' It doesn't make much sense, unless he has dreams there, or thinks that many dreams become deferred in Harlem. I agree with you, Anjita, about the dreams sagging like a heavy load, and that they stay with us. However I also think that there comes a time at which dreams do "explode," and we let go of them because they are simply too much.

  5. I believe that this poem is sort of a way to shatter someone's dreams. I feel this is from parents, teachers, and sometimes, even coaches. It is asking you where that dream goes to when it's taken away. Does it dissapear, or does it stay with us for a little part of our lives? I feel that this poem is saying that if you have a dream, don't let someone take it away from you. If the load of the dream stays with you if it is taken away, maybe that's what you should be doing in the first place.

    Carly, I agree with you wondering why the title of the poem is "Harlem".

    Taylor S, P5

  6. I think the poem is called Harlem because the Harlem Renaissance was going on during Langston Hughes’ lifetime. The poem reflects on Harlem before the Renaissance occurred because there were fewer opportunities for African Americans. This lead to many dreams being deferred for a lot of African Americans during the time period. However, the Harlem Renaissance offered many African Americans a way to achieve their dreams in goals in several different fields. The 1920’s were prosperous for American society as a whole.

    I like the way you described the poem. Hopefully my explanation of title can help you guys better understand the poem.

    Bob T.
    Period 6

  7. This poem asks the question, "What happens to your goals when you put them aside and don't accomplish them?" All of the possibilities suggest that it holds you back or harms you in some way. The second to last line, "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load" suggests that it weighs you down and hold you back, while the last line, "Or does it explode" suggests something different. I think this line implies that a dream that has been pushed aside might do what supressed feelings and emotions often do, which is build up until it explodes.

    I also think the title "Harlem" is saying that this is what often happens to the people of Harlem. Their dreams get pushed aside because other things get in the way (rent, food, crime, other issues of the area...) until the people become damaged by the neglect of their dreams.

    ONAR-I think this poem is more about putting your own dreams aside. "Deferred" means postponed or delayed, so I think that he's asking, "What happens to a dream when you put it behind other things?" So I think it's commenting more on self-inflicted damage. But that's just what I think.

    Katrice K
    period 5

  8. I believe that even though this poem is short, it has a lot of meaning. Because it was written right before the Harlem Renissance, i found it appopriate for hughes to name his poem after the time period. "A raisin in the sun" is an interesting line because a play was done around this time period, the 20's, about a black family trying to get by on the life and living the community has given to them. i like the alleteration he uses and the discrption of each dream makes it even more fun to read.

    Bob, i also believe that the harlem renissance had an influence on his poetry!

    roz Templeton period 5

  9. I think when Hughes says "Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?" he means you lose hope and give up on that dream, and when he says "or fester like a sore- And then run?" he means that you keep thinking about it, and thinking about it and end up despising that dream, and yourself for ever wanting it. When he says "Does it stink like rotten meat?" I think he means it was wasted, like it took too long for that dream to come true. "Or crust and sugar over- like a syrupy sweet?" could mean that it become too good and you still want it but stop beleiving its possible. "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load." could mean that you are aiming to high, and the work and things you have to do to get there are too much for you. "Or does it explode?" could mean when your dream is crushed, by someone or your own hopelessness about ever achieving it.

    Gretchen per5

  10. Katrice,
    I think this poem is more about putting a dream to the side temporarily, rather than forever. I agree though, that doing something like this could cause a person problems, like keeping you from somethin new and better.

    Gretchen per5

  11. I had to redo this because it wouldn't show up! ):
    I agree with many of the others who have commented on this when they say that they wonder why the poem is titled "Harlem". I'm not really sure how it ties into the poem. In my opinion, I feel that this poem is saying how someone is going down the wrong path in life, that they aren't doing what the have desired to do, but what will please others. I find it sad that people don't do what they want in life, because then they are not truly happy.

    Katrice, I liked the question you brought up wondering what would happen if one let their dreams go. I thought it was a really interesting point to the poem! (:

    -Jess B. p.5