- The first line of the poem poses a provocative question: "What happens to a dream deferred?" Instead of giving a direct answer, the speaker asks a series of follow-up questions, suggesting that the dream deferred dries up "like a raisin in the sun" or sags "like a heavy load."
- In total, the speaker suggests six different outcomes, each one as undesirable as the last. Many of his suggestions are repulsive, like the one where the dream stinks like rotten meat.
- Finally, the speaker asks, "Or does it explode?" This line betrays the bitterness and the anger that drives the poem. Oppression and frustration have caused the dream to explode, hurting the speaker and, presumably, those around him.