The Poetry Hub: Langston Hughes

Vivian Coleman, Staff Writer

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What happens to a childhood deferred when old age is inevitable, and lack of ambition is encouraged? At one point in time, we were synonymous with innocence, our very beings encouraged every young aspiration our adolescent minds uttered. However, when the naivety of childhood disappears, do we disappear with it? Are we all victims of our circumstances?

Langston Hughes held the same sentiments. Raised in a single mother household, Hughes’ mother, despite her lack of faith, provided her son with accounts of her roots and negro spirituals. When Hughes reached his maturity, he stayed with his father briefly; however, his father disapproved of his aspirations to become a poet despite his published work by DeBois. His father treasured monetary value over his son’s aspirations, and this love of worldly possessions forced the two apart. Hughes overcame all adversity and is instrumental to the early Harlem Renaissance Era. These accomplishments ensure the title Poet of the week. 

In the piece “Hold Fast to Dreams,” Hughes provides repetition, metaphor, euphemism, personification, meter, and tone to convey the significance of dreams in comparison with life. Repetition is used by Hughes to emphasize the significance of holding fast to dreams. Hughes simultaneously uses metaphor and euphemistic phrasing when stating that, “Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly,” and “Life is a barren field Frozen with snow” to indicate that life is empty without aspirations; thus, contributing to the poem’s meaning. The use of personification can be highlighted by the phrases “For when dreams go” and “For if dreams die” because Hughes gives dreams human attributes to indicate the importance of dreams. A hopeful, wistful tone and meter allows the audience to relate to this piece.  The meaning of this poem directly correlates to the trials in his life and encourages the audience to persevere. 

Yet, “Dreams Deferred” questions dreams’ expiration: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore?” Hughes iterates a question that is well pondered over; yet, rarely spoken out loud. Change is inevitable in spite of those that fear its outcome. We cannot prevent fading dreams; however, we can remember those that have passed. “What happens to a dream deferred?” It lives on in our memory.