Langston Hughes: Poems

Rot and Decay in 'Harlem' 12th Grade

Why do we mourn humans, but not unrealized dreams? ‘Harlem’, a poem by Langston Hughes, is a lament for the lost dreams of African Americans living in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Literally, the poem focuses on the decaying process of a deferred dream, while figuratively, it delves into the depth of the consequences of putting a dream on hold due to racist beliefs. The form of the poem follows a stanzaic structure, consisting of four stanzas of varying number of lines. Langston Hughes employs powerful imagery in his poem ‘Harlem’ in order to depict the evolution of black American sentiments in the years prior to the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. The poet utilizes images of rot and decay to explore the process of loss of hope and growth of frustration that black Americans underwent during this time.

Structurally, the poem is significant, as the way each stanza is arranged aids in the creation of a tone of self-restraint that allows for the poem’s powerful culmination to achieve its full impact. The poem’s structure is stanzaic, comprising of four stanzas with differing number of lines. The most significant feature of this structure lies in the spaces between these stanzas. The spaces that...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 1153 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 8922 literature essays, 2367 sample college application essays, 392 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in