Why does Langston Hughes answer with a list of questions in "Harlem"?

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Hughes' fundamental question is one where there cannot be a direct and reductive answer.  Simply put, one can only examine the possibilities and not derive a totalizing answer.  This is why Hughes possess question after question. Hughes is trying to make the point that so much of negative reality emerges...

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with the continual deferral of dreams.  From a social or political point of view, when the dreams of African- Americans are continually put aside by White society, the resulting forms will be divergent.  The one underlying theme to all of these questions is that they all represent the sensibilities that detract from a great society, or a historical legacy of a nation that seeks to widen opportunity.  In the end, the results of dreams being deferred cannot be given in answers, but rather through potential scenarios that bring out more dread than anything else.

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Although Hughes does not specifically answer his question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" his following questions certainly cause his readers to think about the negative consequences of someone's dream being stifled. Because all of Hughes' ensuing questions and statements ("Does it stink like rotten meat? . . . Maybe it just sags / like a heavy load.") rely on grotesque imagery, the poet's view of lost dreams in America is clear. He makes readers consider not only what would happen to themselves if their dreams were continually put offbut also what happens to those around them who might be "festering" inside because of lost hope/dreams. Thus, if Hughes had simply written statements for the lines following his initial question, readers might not have examined their own thoughts on deferred dreams.

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Why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions and is he expressing political of societal values?

The questions that follow the primary question are rhetorical questions. They are asked for effect and the answers are understood: "yes." (Using rhetorical questions is a very effective persuasive technique.) By creating this catalog of rhetorical questions, Hughes presents the various terrible consequences that result from dreams being frustrated or postponed. He saves his strongest question (and strongest consequence) for the poem's conclusion. Since racism was both an entrenched social and political evil during Hughes' time, his poem addresses both.

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Why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions and is he expressing political of societal values?

I don't think that Hughes actually answers his main question because he is simply trying to get his readers to ask this question themselves.  He does subtly direct what the answer to his main question might be because all of his following  questions carry a negative connotation. The structure of his poem--following a question with other questions--is actually similar to Socratic discussions.  Hughes starts the "discussion" with his main question--"What happens to a dream deferred?"--and then allows the reader to start asking his own questions about the theme.

In answer to your second question, the poem addresses both political and societal values.  The politics of Hughes' day caused the social problems that suffocated the dreams of many African-Americans. 

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Why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions and is he expressing political of societal values?

Part of what makes Hughes answering a question with more questions is that the topic matter he is exploring is so multi- dimensional.  When he ponders about "What happens to a dream deferred," Hughes is asking a powerful question about what happens when dreams die.  There is ample discussion about how to accomplish dreams, or what happens when you achieve your dreams, but there is little about what happens when dreams are set aside, denied, or promised and then stolen.  This becomes a critical question for so many people of color in American History, a nation where freedom and opportunity is embedded in its founding and origins, but seems to have such challenge in delivering it for all of her children.  Hughes' exploration of this topic in imagery makes for an extremely compelling understanding about the nature and breadth of the deferral of dreams.  The last image is one of ominous foreboding, almost to suggest that individuals who defer dreams might have to deal with some rather unpleasant truths on both individual and social levels:  "Or does it explode?"

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Why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions and is he expressing political of societal values?

In the mere act of raising questions, Hughes is expressing political and social values about what it means to be of color in America of the time period.  At the time of Hughes' writing, being Black in America was a condition where difficulty and suffering were daily realities.  Hughes understood that when such a reality is present, it can take on different forms in the lives and narratives of individuals.  In this light, Hughes seeks to raise these differences of experiences through questions.  His hope in raising these questions might very well to be aimed at raising the consciousness of those reading the poem.  Instead of giving one direct answer about the nature of racial prejudice and discrimination, which could be extremely reductive to such a complex problem, Hughes raises his questions to explore the different nature of this reality on the lives of people of color in America.  This helps to bring out the full complexity of the issue and the poignancy in Hughes' portrait.

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In his short poem (often called "Harlem"), why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions? Is he expressing a political statement or a critique of societal values?

The list of questions that follow the main question in Langston Hughes' short poem "Harlem" may serve to make us, as the readers, think about the full range of possible reactions to the situation in the initial question: "What happens to a dream deferred?" To me, the poem (or poet) never clearly points to one possible reaction as the most likely one, but the sixth and final possibility -- "Or does it explode?" -- is given particular emphasis. It's set apart in a stanza of its own, it's shorter than most of the other questions, and it's the final question, the last possibility that we're left with.

That final line to me has always seemed to hint at possible violence that may result when people (African Americans, to be more specific) aren't given full citizenship and genuinely equal opportunities in the United States. The desperation and rage that have fueled a number of race-riots, for example, seem to be predicted in this final line of the poem.

See the links below for the study guide to this poem and for a similar discussion from just a month or so ago.

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In "Harlem," why does Langston Hughes answer his main question with a list of questions; is he expressing political or societal values?

In examining the questions posed, one can see that there are significant political implications to what is being offered.  The fundamental question that can be taken from the poem is what happens to people of color, specifically Black people, when they are the recipients of political and social discrimination and prejudice?  What happens to these narratives?  These questions are socio- political in nature and their answers are, as well.  The idea of a raisin "drying up" reflects something exposed to constant heat and unbearable conditions, which is analogous to the overwhelming presence of institutional and social discrimination.  The denial of hope and opportunity of such realities could very well cause the "sag like a heavy load" or the experience of "stink like rotten meat."  Of course, the fear that all Americans, Black and White, need to have would be in the last question of explosion.  It is important to understand that Hughes' questions are all examples of delving into a topic that Americans did not understand nor cared to comprehend.  When social scientists struggle today to understand the realities of high unemployment, low education levels, the achievement gap, and the conditions of urban settings, they engage on an intellectual exploration of the questions that Hughes raises in his poem.

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