What has been deferred in the poem “deferred” by Langston Hughes?

Langston Hughes, a great English novelist, and poet have inspired many readers worldwide. If you are a literary genius, you must have been inspired by his unparalleled writings. His distinct ideas and their relevance with the world today make people attracted to him even today. This article will focus on one of his poems, deferred/ “Harlem”. Do you know what has been deferred in the poem “deferred” by Langston Hughes? And why has Hughes focused on this word in the poem? If not, then this piece of writing is for you; it will surely lead you to the ideas Hughes tried to convey in this short poem.

What has been deferred in the poem “deferred” by Langston Hughes?

“Harlem” by Langston Hughes

Harlem/”Deferred” by Langston Hughes is a short yet symbolic poem that primarily focuses on the dream’s fate that has been shelved. It begins when a spark of wonder; the speaker shows amazement upon the deferred ream. He contemplates the delay of its fulfillment and thinks about how it gets delayed. Did it ooze like a wound or dry up like a raisin in the sun? Did it smell like rotten meat, or did it explode and vanish? The use of various poetic elements and strong images of “rotten meat,” “a raisin in the sun,” and explode hints that the speaker’s dream has passed various tests and trials before reaching its sad end.

The detailed description unfolds the bitter reality of the American dream and the struggle of African Americans. It takes us back in time when African Americans started to raise their voice against the racial identity and injustices. They dreamed of gaining equal rights. But, unfortunately, their dream was shelved, delayed, and ignored. The poem’s analogies help the readers understand how their plan went through various processes before its sad demise.


To conclude, the apt answer to the question, what has been deferred in the poem “deferred” by Langston Hughes? Is that it was the speaker’s dream that suffered a decline. He shares various possibilities to what might have happened to his vision of hope. Every line of the poem connects the readers to the pain he felt during the unexpected delay of his vision.

If you want to read more about Langston Hughes, please navigate through the following books.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Classics) 

Selected Poems by Langston Hughes

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