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Harlem stretches from the northern New York reaches of Central Park up to 178th Street. In the 1950's it was the home of a million blacks from the southern states and the Caribbean. Black people started moving in around 1920, the beginning of the Jazz Age. New York was the Promised Land for southern blacks, who found untold freedom here. However, Harlem now, as a symbol of black people, described in the tour guide book is -"a large part of it is a slum and slums everywhere tend to be dangerous."
In the poem "Harlem", which was written by Langston Hughes in 1951, the poet tried to find an answer to what blacks was suffering or predict black people's future. Hughes simply raises the question "What happen to a dream deferred ?" in the very beginning, which is the only element in the first stanza and also as the main theme of the whole poem. In the rest of the poem, Hughes gives several possible suggestions to answer to the question in three part. Somehow most of the answers are giving in a questionnaire sentence.
Hughes makes five comparisons to the deferred dream as answer to the question in the second and third stanza. First question "Does it dry up / like a raisin in the sun?" is a very vivid and romantic comparison that Hughes compare the dream as juicy fruit and the dream deferred as a raisin dried in the sun. To compare hope to a raisin in the sun is to suggest a hopeless/helpless shriveling and withering away. Then, Hughes compare the deferred dream to two very nauseating sight - "fester like a sore- / And then run" "stink like rotten meat", which suggest that the promise would not just vanished but it may turn to be a wound in the heart of those who was promised to or deteriorate to be a social problem. Hughes continually, in a different aspect, compares the hope to "crust and sugar over- / like a syrupy sweet". A syrupy sweet seems beautiful in the first place. However, when the truth is that the sweet is belong to others and what we could to is simply crust and sugar over and over the sweet in our imagination, it is so sad and killing. And when the sweet can bear no more crust and sugar over, at last, it may just like what Hughes said "it just sags like a heavy load."
On the other hand, if not sags, Hughes makes a much more strong suggestion that it may explode!
The second to last comparison as a heavy load is the only comparison that is not ending with a question mark, and it seems to be the answer that Hughes finally figured out to his very first question. However, Hughes followed makes another suggestion, and with this arrangement, the last suggestion is more powerful and explosive.
Below is some historical background I found on the web. I'd like to take them as a reference and moreover I think these could be the afterword of Hughes's poem "Harlem".
The March on Washington, on August 28, becomes the largest and most dramatic civil rights demonstration in history. More than 250,000 marchers, including 60,000 whites, fill the mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. King and other civil rights leaders meet with President Kennedy in the White House. King's "I Have A Dream" Speech is the high point of the event.
-->a heavy load !
In July, riots erupt in New York City's Harlem after a fifteen year old black boy is shot by an off-duty policeman. The initial rioting is followed by uprisings throughout the summer in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, as well as in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Rochester, NY, New Jersey; Chicago and Philadelphia.
-->it explode !

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