In the poem, "Harlem," what does the poet mean by "does it dry up like a raisin in the sun" and "does it stink like rotten meat"?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem about a "Dream Deferred, " or "Harlem," or "Montage of a Dream Deferred" represents Langston Hughes' exploration of the results of dreams that are set aside or dismissed.  The poem explores the different and varied results of this deferral, or denial of one's most sacred of visions, their dreams.  In a world which encourages individuals to dreams, and outwardly professes the benefit of dreaming, there is an opposite message sent to some members of that society when their dreams are either denied, put aside, or dismissed.  The results are the images in the poem.  For example, when a dream dries up "like a raisin in the sun," the image connotes a picture of something that was once succulent and full of life, like a grape off of the vine, subjected to the harsh and brutal sun where it can only wither away into a wrinkled shell of what it once was.  In another image, Hughes creates the image of such dismissal of dreams as becoming something awful, terrible to others, casting such a negative sensation that it becomes a blight on a social order, or "stink like rotten meat."  For Hughes and other writers in the Harlem Renaissance, America of the 20th Century battled between professing progress and opportunity for all under the shadow of discrimination and denial of opportunities for African- Americans and people of color.  In a land where immigrants come to pursue their dreams, Hughes examines the result of the flip side to that coin, when dreams are deferred.

tiktokclock | Student

The poem is not called "Harlem" It is called Dreams or Dreams Deferred. I had to read and memorize these two poems. He talking about life and the earth surrounding him.