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HARLEM

Introduction

            During the twenties, a Negro population newly uprooted from the pastoral and bloody South dug its roots into the promises presented by Northern Industrial cities. In “Harlem”, “The New Negro” bore fruit in a "bumper crop of artists", thus developing into the greatest Negro conurbation in the world. And thus “The Harlem Renaissance” surfaced in the early 20th century, in the midst of social and intellectual cataclysm in the African American community. Also known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance.

            A black middle class had formed by the change of the century, cultivated by increased schooling and employment prospects following the American Civil War (1861-1865). "The Harlem Renaissance," was the generation, enlightened by learning and nurtured by folk basis such as black music and the black church. The Harlem Renaissance marked the first instance that mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature significantly and that the literature and arts received commendable notice from the nation. Even though it was predominantly a literary movement, it was very much linked to progression of African American politics, music, theater and art.

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            The decline of the Harlem Renaissance by the mid-1930s was due to several factors, foremost being “The Great Depression” of the 1930s and secondly due to shift of interests of the main organizations such as the NAACP and the Urban League, to economic and social concerns. And largely as the majority of the prominent black writers and literary promoters, including Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Charles S. Johnson, and Du Bois, left New York City.

Poet

            James Mercer Langston Hughes, US poet, fiction writer, and dramatist was born on 1st. February 1902, in Joplin, Missouri, USA; and died on 22nd. May 1967, in New York, USA.

            This famous name was emblematic of a formidable family history. After his parents divorced he lived with his grandmother who then had first exposed the young boy to the Bible and to ‘The Crisis’, the journal of the recently established National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Hughes never took interst in religion, but writing was a different story. In spite of their distressed relationship, his father, James Hughes consented to spend for Langston's education at Columbia, provided that his son gains knowledge of engineering. His son, however, had other plans, he had already discovered poetry, and Harlem (Columbia) . Hughes dropped out of school, in 1922, and in 1923 he joined the crew of a steamer and sailed for Africa, making him one of the only Harlem Renaissance writers at that time to have actually seen the lauded continent.

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By the time of his death from cancer on May 22, 1967, Langston Hughes had been in the public eye for more than 40 years.

Characteristic of Harlem Renaissance

            The Harlem Renaissance was never defined with a common literary style or political ideology. The bonding between the participants was their sense of taking part in a mutual endeavor and their commitment to providing creative expression to the African American experience. The most popular themes which existed were an interest in the basis of the 20th-century African American experience in Africa and the American South, and a passionate feeling of racial pride and yearning for social and political equality.

            The predominant characteristic of the Harlem Renaissance was the diversity of its expression, and from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s, approximately 16 black writers published more than 50 volumes of poetry and literature appealing to audiences in al walks of life.

            In 1925 Hughes wrote in his autobiography, "It was the period, when the Negro was in vogue." It was a period during the 1920s and early '30s when black art, culture and activism flourished. They were no longer merely "exotic" focus of art; they were creating it as well, and not only creating it exotically but in record numbers.

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“Harlem”

            “Harlem” by James Mercer Langston Hughes, in 1951 is an example of his masterpieces produced in the renaissance period. This poem of his was later titled as "Dream Deferred".

            At the first glance of Langston Hughes's poem “Harlem", the simplicity of the poem is apparent. It is a disappointment that a poet of such undeniable gifts has not been more rigorous in his use of them. This poem of Hughes's misses the sly voice inhabiting most of his poems. His voice more often than not, means what it says, but by no means quite says all that it means in a straightforward way. Instead it remains mysterious through a dexterous use of language manipulation, conveying multiple meanings to multiple audiences.

            In the poem Langston Hughes wants to present the concept that a dream can persist in the face of adversity and still be seen through to the end.  In line 1 he inquires, and then presents a series of disturbing answers to, the question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" In simple yet in a very comprehensive style has the poet questioned about the dreams which have been deferred and in a very sarcastic fashion, has he retorted about them being sour events. He has very high and strong emotions for his unfulfilled dreams for which he has a form and vocabulary of his own, but neither his imagination nor his intelligence comes anywhere near the strength of his emotions.

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            In the remaining content of the poem Langston has given very agitated replies in the form of many a questions calling his deferred dreams ‘sore’ and ‘rotten meat’. This part of the poem shows a very pessimistic attitude of the poet towards life.  In Langston Hughes's "Harlem," the poem suggests an emotion of encouragement in the last statement to counter the hopelessness of the previous phrases. Hughes suggests that as long as you don't overlook your real dreams, they will survive on eternally, no matter what hopelessness encompasses you.

            The poet Langston Hughes in the final line of "Harlem" leaves the audience with the question, "Or does it explode?" indicating that a dream may "explode."  Most would observe this as a pessimistic affair, meaning that the dreams would be shattered into bits and pieces, never to be restored. In other words he has put up a question concerning whether or not the dream still survives, and Hughes desires us to believe that the dream can be alive and still thrive. In my opinion, however, this particular phrase is optimistic and hopeful in reaching your dreams.  The word "explode" can be referred to as "leaving an impact," just as a bomb leaves an impact on what it comes in contact with.

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For that reason, the recollection of the dream is still there and very much so apparent and palpable. The poet thus lists quite a few probable destinies for the dream, but ends with the statement that the dream is intensifying, not exploding into nothingness.

Structural Analysis of the Poem

            In depth reading of Hughes Harlem discloses the essential disunity of the poem. It is a base of unresolved disagreement. Elements of its outer body, and its form, contend with each other as well as with various elements of its inner body, its structure.

            Five of the six responses to the opening query is interrogative rather than declarative. Nevertheless, due to its tentative "Maybe," the solitary declarative sentence is far less compelling than truly declarative. In the closing line, that ultimate, forceful, emphatically italicized interrogative, which, in spite of the fact that it is simply one more in a sequence of questions, is the decisive, though not the sole and exclusive, answer to the initial question posed in line 1. The effect of all this is a poem so out of joint that its five quests strongly assert and its solitary assertion uncertainly suggests.

            Dissimilar to the poem's typography, which seems more coherent and up to the point.  The five dominant answers are indented, structuring a lengthier stanza of four questions and a much shorter stanza of one declarative sentence. The former stanzas are so dramatic that the final stanza barely appears to merit the emphasis it obtains by being set off as a stanza by itself.

            If Hughes had allowed stanza divisions to balance rhyme scheme by constructing the final three lines into a single concluding stanza and separating the seven-line stanza between lines 5 and 6. The remaining three stanzas would more plainly reflect the structure, the inner body, of the poem, which contains three paired oppositions: "dry up" and "fester," "stink" and "sugar over," and "sag" and "explode."  The poet has failed to do so. Rhyme is incorporated with structure in a way that typography is not. If the typography had been, structure would be that much more prominent, and the poem would emerge to be more logically divided into stanzas.

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            The metaphors of its oppositions develop from the visual ("dry up" and "fester"), to the olfactory ("stink") and, in part, gustatory ("syrupy sweet"), to the kinesthetic ("sag") and organic ("explode"). This outward-to-inward sequence of imagery skillfully draws the reader into the poem or the poem into the reader, who starts by seeing "out there" the drying up and the rotting and who ends by feeling "in here" the slump and the explosion.

nquiries that are come back with answers; eventually the answer is so uncertain that it looks like a question; stanza divisions that are difficult to comprehend our perception of the poem as a trio of balancing antagonism succeeding from outer to inner; a rhyme system which strengthens the division into paired oppositions, consequently, in a poem in divergent with itself, draw in diverse orders by its most fundamental components. Hitherto this certainly is a premeditated failure is the gauge of the poem's achievement. Its breakdown echoes the ongoing collapse of American culture to attain pleasant mixing of blacks and whites.

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