Imagery in ‘Dreams’ by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a very well known African American poet. One of his first works is titled “Dreams”. It was written in the early 1920s. This was a time when discrimination was very relevant. Hughes used poetry to remind readers of the hard times that many people had to go through. Imagery is used in Hughes’s poem “Dreams” to express the importance of never giving up hope for the future.

The shortness of “Dreams” makes it extremely unique. It has only two stanzas. The author is able to convey to his audience the importance of striving to reach for dreams even when they seem impossible. His audience seems to be anyone who is feeling down or hopeless. He could also be reaching out to African Americans who are facing discrimination.

Hughes believes that dreams are a way of living. To live a life without them is practically not worth living. This poem has a similar meaning to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Martin Luther King never gave up on his dreams and he kept fighting for what he believed in. This is exactly what Hughes is perceiving in this poem.

The tone of “Dreams” is optimistic but also sad. In the first stanza, the author uses the word “if” (2) when referring to dreams dying. In the following stanza, he replaces “if” with “when” (6). He is implying that dreams will eventually die instead of having the possibility of ending.

Hughes uses a metaphor in the line “Life is a broken-winged bird/ That cannot fly.” (3-4). He is simply saying that without having dreams to accomplish, life does not have much meaning. Just as a bird that does not have proper wings to fly, it is helpless and frail.

Another metaphor Hughes uses is “Life is a barren field/ Frozen with snow.” (7-8). This relates to the endless possibilities that life holds. Everyone has the freedom to choose to live fully and set goals.

The rhyme scheme in this poem is an ABCB pattern. In the first stanza “die” rhymes with “fly”. In the second stanza “go” rhymes with “snow”. The rhythm creates a playfulness and aids in memory. This gives the audience a sense of pleasure when reading.

Repetition plays a pretty large role in this writing. Each stanza begins with the words “Hold fast to dreams” (1 and 5). The author does this to show how important it is to never let go of what you are fighting or wishing for. The second line also repeats except for a few words. “When” becomes “if” and “die” becomes “go”. Lastly, the third lines both begin with “Life is a” (2 and 4). By using the same words and phrases Hughes is able to portray their significance.

When I first discovered this poem a few years ago, I instantly fell in love with it. It’s just so simple and straightforward. It will always be applicable to me at any point in my life. I will never stop shooting for my dreams and this poem will always remind me of that.

Although this poem is very short, it has a huge impact on the reader. It leaves the reader with a sense of unknowingness about the future. It makes one think about life from a different perspective. Dreams will always be there, it’s just a matter of going out into the world and fulfilling them. Anyone can accomplish anything if they are in the right mindset. This poem is still very relevant in today’s world. Without dreams, people would not be as successful as they are. It’s dreams that keep the universe going.

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Imagery in 'Dreams' by Langston Hughes. (2021, Jul 19). Retrieved August 6, 2022 , from

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