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This is perhaps Hughes’s best-known poem, principally because of the memorable third line, which was used by Lorraine Hansberry for her play A Raisin in the Sun in 1959. The similes in lines 3, 4, 6, 8, and 10 all refer to things spoiling and rotting, with those in lines 4 and 6 being particularly bitter and ironic. The last comparison (line 11) suggests how deferring a dream is like nurturing the fuse of a powerful explosive. The shift to the metaphor in line 11 involves a change from similarity to actuality. The idea is that the suppression of African-Americans is creating not an impression of explosive hostility, but is creating real explosive hostility.
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