In line 1, Hughes uses the word “fast,” not only because it means the same thing in this context as “close” or “tight” would, but also because the reader cannot help but think of hurrying, and this adds a sense of urgency to the poem at its very start. The question of how to hold a dream, which is not as obvious as it might first seem to the casual reader, is central to this piece. Throughout the poem, Hughes’s language treats dreams as if they were physical objects.
In line 3 the poem metaphorically identifies life with a bird. Hughes is very specific about why this bird could not fly. In using “broken-winged” instead of “crippled,” he implies that some violence has occurred to the bird, and therefore to the dreamless life. Birds are commonly associated with dreams and ideals in literature because their flight in the empty sky matches the idea of uninhibited freedom, like the mind’s freedom.
The first two lines are nearly repeated in lines 5–6, resembling the repetition in blues music, which this poem is based upon. Traditionally, blues lyrics describe hardship and suffering, which this poem does also. The poem, though, twice mentions holding fast to dreams, emphasizing that hardship and suffering are not inevitable. Line 6 changes the word “die” to “go”: not only does this start a new rhyme, but it also adds to the sense of how...
(The entire section is 1065 words.)
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