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Dreams by Langston HughesI need help with Hughes' poem, "Dreams."  What is...

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dav23 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2007 at 9:40 AM via web

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Dreams by Langston Hughes

I need help with Hughes' poem, "Dreams."  What is the structure?  Theme? Symbols?  Moral and historical context?  Can it be connected with larger cultural issues?  I really need help!

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 27, 2007 at 12:49 PM (Answer #4)

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Dreams by Langston Hughes

I need help with Hughes' poem, "Dreams."  What is the structure?  Theme? Symbols?  Moral and historical context?  Can it be connected with larger cultural issues?  I really need help!

This is a very brief poem, just two stanzas, ten lines long.  Structually, the poem has a simple rhyme scheme of A,B,C,B.  The rhyme scheme makes it easy to remember, but not so sing-songy that it loses gravity. :

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

Its theme is to never give up; its moral is that giving up is tantamount to death. 

Culturally, Hughes most prolific writing period was in the late 1920s through the 1930s.  He is considered among the most important of the movement called "The Harlem Renaissance."  The Harlem Renaissance was composed of primarily African-American artists who "simultaneously expressed the desire for an integrated world and a warning to those who would try to keep the black race subservient." This poem expresses those sentiments.  It is an encouragement for those oppressed by racism to continue the good fight and be assured that one day they will see their dreams become reality. 

(Continued next post)

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Jamie Wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 27, 2007 at 12:50 PM (Answer #5)

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Dreams by Langston Hughes

I need help with Hughes' poem, "Dreams."  What is the structure?  Theme? Symbols?  Moral and historical context?  Can it be connected with larger cultural issues?  I really need help!

  (continued from previous post)

Hughes uses metphors  (comparison of two seemingly unrelated things) to, in Dr. King's words, "keep the dream alive; keep hope alive" (and surely King himself was inspired by Hughes poems in his own "I have a Dream" speech) to help the dream stay alive.  He compares the death of a dream to a living a life like "a broken winged bird," that is, useless and without spirit or reason for living.  Life without dreams is also compared to a frozen field, lifeless, without fruit. 

To learn a bit more about Hughes life and work in a condensed form, and some fun facts, please visit our "quick bio" of the poet here at eNotes:  http://www.enotes.com/authors/langston-hughes

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dav23 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:44 PM (Answer #6)

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Dreams by Langston Hughes

I need help with Hughes' poem, "Dreams."  What is the structure?  Theme? Symbols?  Moral and historical context?  Can it be connected with larger cultural issues?  I really need help!

This is a very brief poem, just two stanzas, ten lines long.  Structually, the poem has a simple rhyme scheme of A,B,C,B.  The rhyme scheme makes it easy to remember, but not so sing-songy that it loses gravity. :

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow

Its theme is to never give up; its moral is that giving up is tantamount to death. 

Culturally, Hughes most prolific writing period was in the late 1920s through the 1930s.  He is considered among the most important of the movement called "The Harlem Renaissance."  The Harlem Renaissance was composed of primarily African-American artists who "simultaneously expressed the desire for an integrated world and a warning to those who would try to keep the black race subservient." This poem expresses those sentiments.  It is an encouragement for those oppressed by racism to continue the good fight and be assured that one day they will see their dreams become reality. 

(Continued next post)

Thanks Jamie-Wheeler for the answers to my questions. Your answers to my questions give me better insights on the poem. You are a very good literature teacher and I will recommend you to my friends as one of the best literature teachers to ask for help in literature. Because of the good answers you give on this question, my brother one to ask you another literature question on the poem "Harlem or "Dream Deferred" by Hughes. This is the last question for the day. I will post it to the same area I posted the first question.

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dav23 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:58 PM (Answer #7)

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Are the two poems "Hold fast to Dreams" and "Harlem" or "Dream Deferred" by Hughes, the same? What are the similarities and disssimilarity between these two poems in term of their themes, forms, structures, figurative languages use, morals and historical contexts?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2009 at 10:50 AM (Answer #8)

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In response to number 7, "Hold Fast to Dreams" is different than "Dream Deferred."  The former deals with two questions:  What happens when dreams die and what happens when dreams are let go?  The images he uses for both questions' answers are descriptive images such as a broken bird and a barren, winter field.  The poem, "Dream Deferred" explores one question:  What happens when dreams are deferred?  The answers to this question are exploratory to the dismissal of dreams (sagging as a heavy load, crusty over, like a sugary sweet, explosion).  It seems that the "Dream Deferred" is more intense in its descriptions, and the fact that all the answers to this original question are all questions themselves provides thought provoking reflection.  The historical context for both is the African- American predicament in a nation predicated upon equality and freedom, but very far from providing it to all her citizens.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 19, 2009 at 1:21 PM (Answer #9)

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"Hold Fast to Dreams" and "A Dream Deferred" are very different in tone. The first seems more lyrical with its nature references to a bird and a frozen field. These are sad, and even "gentle" images, if you will.

"A Dream Deferred," however, takes a harsher, negative tone with some elements of outright ugliness in it. The connotations of a raisin drying up and a sore festering and then running are very unpleasant. Rotten meat that stinks is also a revolting image. The idea of anything crusting over brings back the image of a sore. The poem then shifts in tone with the idea of sagging "like a heavy load." There is some connotation here of resignation, giving up. The conclusion, in contrast, is then even more striking as Hughes leaves the reader with the idea of an explosion. There is an implied danger in that, and the poem suggests prophecy. Dreams cannot be put off indefinitely without negative consequences, and one consequence might well be destruction.

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted July 19, 2009 at 1:30 PM (Answer #10)

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The idea of resignation, and giving up, and then the suggestion of an explosion and the implication of danger always reminds me of the plight of young people in the inner city.  Time and time again, we hear about young men who are entranced with the idea of belonging to a gang and/or getting involved in the drug trade as the only option they think is available to them.  If a youngster comes from a family in generational poverty, he or she may truly have never known or seen anyone anywhere who lives any differently.  Therefore, dreams are not necessarily deferred, they simply never really exist.  This phenomenon is not confined to America's inner cities, either.  Terrorist networks purposely and routinely target and recruit in the world's poorest areas where options are few or non-existent.  In this sense, Hughes' poem is still relevant to our contemporary world. 

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hombre | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:51 AM (Answer #11)

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Does any body know what the author means when he say "does it dry up like a raisin in the sun" and "does it stink like rotten meat" in the poem harlem

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julanar | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 5, 2010 at 1:18 AM (Answer #12)

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hi

I want to make reaserch about something in this poem but I don't know what I should write about .

can you help me to choose good topic to write about in this poem ?

thanks

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