In his poem “Dreams,” Langston Hughes puts heart-touching words to address society and the world. Hughes develops the idea that life is hard when you don’t have dreams. He develops this theme by using repetition and metaphors.
First, Hughes uses repetition. For example, Hughes restates the line, “Hold fast to dreams” twice. He is trying to emphasize that you should really hold on to your dreams and chase them. You should do this no matter what because otherwise your dreams may slip away. Another way Hughes uses repetition is through his line structure. The first 3 stanzas in each verse start with the same 3 words: Hold, For, and Life.
To describe a world without dreams, Langston Hughes uses two metaphors. The first metaphor is: “Life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Here Hughes compares a frustrating life without dreams to a “broken-winged bird.” When Hughes makes this comparison, I picture a bird’s broken wing who can’t fly but tries his or her hardest. It makes me think life may be hard, but you can still try to make it better. This reminds me of my dad. In 2018, he had a seizure and passed out on the floor. My uncle found him and took him to the hospital. Ever since then, he’s been sick, but he gets better every day. My dad’s situation has demonstrated to me that you can bounce back. No matter what he’s going through he still keeps fighting.
The second metaphor Hughes uses is: “Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.” This image makes us see how hard it would be to get back on your feet after losing something as dearly important as your dreams. This reminds me of my cousin. She loved the house she raised her children in. One time her checks came in but they weren’t enough to pay her rent that month. Then the same thing happened the next month, so she got evicted. She felt hurt and cried. She was devastated and forced to stay in a homeless shelter. She went around looking for a new home, but the houses she looked at were too expensive or not available. She went back to the shelter, feeling stuck. Because she remembered her dreams, she never gave up. She realized she had to push herself harder, and eventually she found another house and got on her feet. Both images let us see how Hughes thinks about how life is so hard without dreams.
By using repetition and metaphors, Hughes allows the reader to get pulled in to get thinking about the importance of dreams. You have to be diligent to get what you want and you have to prove yourself. Then maybe “the barren field filled with snow” won’t be so hard after all.
Read Langston Hughes's "Dreams" here.
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Langston Hughes. VintageClassics, 1995. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
Have you read this book, or any poems by Hughes? Let us know in the comments below!