Langston Hughes excellent poem is short, yet it is also very deep and focuses on the terrible times the South went through with racial prejudice and injustice the order of the day. Hughes explores the themes of alienation and marginality when he talks about the black man who ends up strung from a tree after being lynched. Although the white man saw lynching as a right, as well as a form of control, the black man was constantly and consistently humiliated by such terrible injustice. Hughes himself experienced alienation and terror almost on a daily basis, and this is not just reflected in this poem but also in the famous ‘Harlem’.
Although there is an element of culture in the poem, the main theme that one encounters here is that of alienation. The possibility of a dream that can come true is rudely awakened here and although Hughes pushed the cause of the black man forward, there was still a long way to go for equality to be achieved. Hughes’ language is full of romantic inflexions and sardonic beauty; this is very much a poem to be admired in every part of it.
In the line ‘Or fester like a sore – And then run’ we are confronted with a moral dilemma that a black man has to face with monotonous consistency.
Does he remain ‘in his place’ or does he attempt to better himself? The sore that Langston Hughes refers to is the sweltering heat of injustice, that was something which the blacks had to live with. ‘Maybe it just sags – like a heavy load’, is another reference to the lot of the black man as he lies there constantly in fear of being attacked or even lynched for no apparent reason. Hughes’ powerful poetry goes to the jugular and shocks us all even to this day.
Shaper A C (2012); Poetry Analysis: ‘Dream Deferred’ by Langston Hughes; Retrieved from: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/arts-entertainment/poetry-analysis-dream-deferred-by-langston-hughes-288523.html