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What is the effect of the speaker not completing the final line with a simile and why...

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harley08 | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted November 14, 2010 at 10:36 AM via web

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What is the effect of the speaker not completing the final line with a simile and why is this a useful strategy in "Harlem"?

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:48 PM (Answer #1)

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In the eight lines enclosed within the frame (that is, between the first andnext-to-last lines) we get four possibilities: The Dream may “dry up,” “fester,”“crust and sugar over,” or “sag.” Each of these is set forth with a simile,for example, “dry up / like a raisin in the sun.” By the way, the third ofthese, “crust up and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet,” probably describes adream that has turned into smiling Uncle Tomism. Similes can be effective, andthese are effective, but in the final line Hughes states the last possibility (“Ordoes it explode?”) directly and briefly, without an amplification. The effect is,more or less, to suggest that the fancy (or pretty) talk stops. The explosion istoo serious to be treated in a literary way. But, of course, the word “explode,”applied to a dream, is itself figurative. That is, the last line is as “literary” or“poetical” as the earlier lines, but it is a slightly different sort of poetry.

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