Poetry Project Sample

Report
POETRY PROJECT SAMPLE
English 9
Collection 7: Analyzing Poetry
“Dream Deferred”
by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Lines 1-3

What happens to a dream deferred?
Dream = hope, aspiration for the future
To Defer = to delay temporarily, to give in to someone else
Hughes is asking what happens when people’s dreams or hopes
are delayed or put on hold.

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
SIMILE = the dream is being compared to a raisin in the sun
The author is comparing deferred dreams to raisins in the sun
because much like raisins in the sun, dreams are shriveled when
put on hold or delayed.
Lines 4-8


Or fester like a sore-And then run?
SIMILE = the dream is being compared to a sore
The author is comparing the deferred dream to a sore
which has become diseased and infected. This creates the
effect that these dreams are hard or painful to bring back
to life.
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-like a syrupy sweet?
SIMILE = The dream is being compared to the smell of rotten meat
The author is comparing the deferred dream to the horrid smell of rotten meat. This
creates the effect that deferred dreams stink of decay.
SIMILE = the dream is now being compared to sweet syrup.
The author is comparing the dream in this comparison to something that is sickeningly
sweet.
Lines 9-11

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
SIMILE = The dream is compared to a burden.
The author is saying that deferred dreams can weigh the
dreamer down.

Or does it explode?
METAPHOR = the deferred dream is compared to a bomb.
This is effective because a bomb can go off and explode at
any time just like a “dream deferred”
Speaker/Subject


The speaker of the poem can be described as
someone who knows what it’s like to have dreams.
This person also knows the feeling of putting his
dreams on hold for whatever reason. He also
understands the consequences of deferring one’s
dreams.
The subject of the poem deals with dreams and
what happens when we don’t pursue them.
Summary

The poem discusses overall what happens to our
dreams when we put them on hold. The speaker
suggests that the consequences of deferred dreams
are not always pleasant. At the end of the poem,
the speaker compares deferred dreams to an
explosion, which is a powerful image to convey the
results of unpursued and forgotten dreams.
Stylistic Devices


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

“fester like a sore”
“Stink like rotten meat”
“Crust and sugar over”
“syrupy sweet”
“sags like a heavy load”
All of the images/similes in the poem seem to say that
if a dream is postponed, it can often become
something terrible (theme)
Rhyme and Rhythm


Like a piece of jazz music, the poem uses rhyme and short bursts of
rhythm. For example, “sun/run,” “meat/sweet,” and
“load/explode”—pull the ideas behind the similes and metaphor
together, repeating and building up the importance of the ideas like
a series of notes repeated in music.
Similarly, just as pauses in music provide dynamic rhythms, the lines in
the poem have pauses between them, shown by the use of dashes
and the skipped lines that set off the central section. The last
important question of the poem, asked after a skipped-line pause, is
like a final drumbeat that ends a piece of jazz music
Tone


The tone of the poem can be described as despairing.
The following diction used in the poem helps to establish
tone:
“dry up”
 “fester”
 “sore”
 “stink”
 “rotten
 “sags”
 “heavy load”
 “explode”

Theme

The theme of “dream deferred” can best be stated
as:
Keeping people from achieving their dreams can have
destructive consequences.
Focus Questions

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1. What does Hughes say will often happen when
dreams are deferred/put on hold?
2. What are the dominant stylistic devices that
Hughes uses to make his point in the poem?
3. What emotions are conveyed through Hughes’
poem?
4. What are the two possible meanings of the
word “deferred”
5. What is the effect of the use of similes in the
poem?

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