What's In The Book? - Imagery

Illuminating Imagery – Classic

Harlem: A Dream Deferred

by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun

Or fester like a sore-

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

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Core Literary Elements

Illuminating Imagery – Classic

Interpretation Guide

CA Language Arts Standards Covered:

9/10 LRA 3.7, 3.11; L&S 1.1; W 2.2; W&O 1.3, 1.4
 R 2.2; 11/12 W&O 1.1, 1.2; W 2.2; R 2.0; LRA 3.4

Imagery: The use of language to evoke a picture or a concrete sensation of a
person,
a thing, a place, or an experience.

Poetic Theme: Reach for Your Dreams

Identify how Hughes uses imagery for all five senses in his poem.

• Sight: Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun

• Taste: Or crust and sugar over-

Like a syrupy sweet?

• Touch: Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

• Smell: Does it stink like rotten meat?

• Sound: Or does it explode?

How does the sum total of all of the imagery add up to answering the
question put forth by the speaker in line one, “What happens to a dream deferred?"

Each image represents something that was once useful or productive but, having been
left alone or unattended for too long (i.e., like a dream deferred), becomes useless,
decayed and possibly even self-destructive.

• The raisin is dried up.

• The sore has festered and run (with infection and puss).

• The syrupy sweet is crusted and sugared over, too sweet to even taste appealing
anymore.

• The meat has turned rotten and smells foul and disgusting.

• The dream itself has exploded, the sound of which is entirely destructive.

What is the unspoken message the speaker is telling the reader about going
after their own dreams?

The speaker seems to be clearly saying that having dreams and not pursuing them
will cause one to not only regret their not “going for it,” but cause them to eventually crumble apart. It may be slow but at some point the stress, regrets and disappointment of NOT pursuing one’s dreams will become too much and self-destruction will occur in some shape or form.

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Hip-Hop Poetry and The Classics

Illuminating Imagery – Classic

Student Worksheet

Imagery: The use of language to evoke a picture or a concrete sensation of a person,

a thing, a place, or an experience.

Identify how Hughes uses imagery for all five senses in his poem.

• Sight: _________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

• Taste:_________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

• Touch:________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

• Smell: ________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

• Sound: ________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

How does the sum total of all of the imagery add up to answering the question put forth by the speaker in line one, “What happens to a dream deferred? ”

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

What is the unspoken message the speaker is telling the reader about going
after their own dreams?

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

 

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