are associated with images, the poet attempts to capture a sense of deep connection between himself and his audience that manages to transcend normal cultural or social bounds. While not all poetry is able to reach this level, Langston Hughes’ poem “Dream Deferred” does. In this poem, Hughes uses simile and imagery to illustrate what happens to a human soul when it is blocked from being able to fulfill its dreams.
In this poem, Hughes asks a series of questions that are heavy with simile and imagery as a means of answering his opening question, “what happens to a dream deferred?” Each question explores a different possible answer to this question by using similes to suggest what the results of these possibilities might be. The most basic definition of a simile is that it is a comparison between two things – objects or ideas – that uses the words ‘like’ or ‘as.’ The first possible response to having to defer one’s dreams is having the dream “dry up / like a raisin in the sun” (3-4). Since raisins are already dried and shriveled, a raisin in the sun is instantly understood to be something so dry and shriveled that it is no longer edible, making this an effective simile. Next, Hughes suggests that a dream deferred might “fester like a sore – / and then run” (4-5). This is a particularly unpleasant comparison as it refers to first a wound and then a deep infection that goes untreated long enough to ooze. The third possibility suggests that the deferred dream might “stink like rotten meat / or crust and sugar over” (6-7). Like the raisin, this possibility suggests something that has lost all of its usefulness but it goes further because it also suggests that in becoming useless for positive benefits, it has also become actively negative as it rots and putrefies. A less visible but still tangible simile is suggested through the fourth possible reaction to a dream deferred as Hughes indicates it can be like a heavy load