What Is The Meaning Of Dreams By Langston Hughes

Meaning of Dream by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is an iconic African American poet, writer, and novelist, whose dream-like poems often cite spiritual or personal experiences. His poem “Dreams” is a beloved poem. Written in 1959, it is known as one of the most popular and widely anthologized poems of the early 20th century. To understand Hughes’ use of imagery and metaphor in the poem, it’s important to try to understand what he meant by dreaming.

In his poem, Hughes emphasizes the importance of dreamers, and he contends that the ability to dream is what sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. He is saying that, although we may be subjected to heartache and injustice, it’s important for us to never give up dreaming. He further expresses that even though dreams are often discounted as unimportant by society and seen as realistic goals, they remain powerful in maintaining our strength and hope. Hughes’ dreamer is someone who is willing to take risks and move forward despite difficulties and is determined to reach the ultimate goal.

According to experts, Hughes’ use of language in his poem has a deeper and more important message. Dreams provide people with hope that something better is coming, despite current hardships and suffering. Hughes knows that without hope, dreaming would be futile. Dreams represent the aspirations that may seem out of reach, but they give people something to strive for and to persevere in their pursuit of a better life. Hughes mentions that “life is a broken-winged bird,” meaning that life can be difficult and painful, but if we continue to dream and cling to our dreams, those broken wings can take us to heights we didn’t know existed.

Hughes also contradicts the notion that without dreams we are nothing. To him, dreams are just as important as reality and provide us with the power to face challenges and come up with solutions. They help us to visualize what is possible and to realize that challenges can be overcome.

At the same time, Hughes does not downplay the reality of life and the challenges it brings. He acknowledges that life can be “dark and drear” and that people do not always get what they wish for. He reminds us that despite the difficulties, we need to never give up and that we need to keep dreaming, for this will give us the power and faith to move forward.

The poem serves as a reminder that life is not just about trying hard and being successful, but that it is also about striving for higher goals and never forgetting our own dreams. We should never give up on our dreams, no matter how hard life might be.

The Historical Background

Langston Hughes wrote this poem during a period in the United States of America called the Harlem Renaissance. This was a time of cultural, economic, and social flourishing among African Americans in the city of New York. By this time, African Americans had begun to express the full extent of their creativity and were finally beginning to be accepted into mainstream culture. They expressed their feelings of freedom, justice and civil rights in the arts, including in literature, music, and painting. Hughes’ poem is a reflection of this unique period and can be seen as an example of the social and cultural movement.

At this time, it was also common for African Americans to write in free verse, which Hughes does to great effect in the poem. In this way, it serves as an expression of their sense of freedom and hope for justice and more equality. The poem also serves as a call to arms, as it encourages African Americans to never give up and to continue to strive for their dreams even in the face of adversity and oppression.

During the time of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes was also heavily influenced by the works of W.E.B. Du Bois and the spirituals of the African American church. His use of language and imagery reflect his appreciation of these works, and he often incorporates religious themes in his poetry.

Another important aspect of the poem is its form. The poem consists of five stanzas, each with four lines. Each of these stanzas has a melody to it, which creates a powerful effect and makes the poem a pleasure to read.

Cultural and Social Significance

Langston Hughes’ poem “Dreams” has had a lasting impact on the African American culture. Through his words, Hughes was able to express the struggles of African Americans and the hope and strength they found in their dreams. Not only was his work a source of inspiration to many, but it served to inspire a generation of African Americans to stand up for their rights and fight for what they believed in.

The poem has also had a significant impact on the African American social and political movements of the 20th century, especially during the Civil Rights movement. Many African American activists used it as a rallying cry for the movement, expressing their determination and resilience in the face of adversity. The poem thus served as a reminder to African Americans everywhere to never give up and to fight for their dreams.

Not only has the poem served to empower African Americans, but it has also had a lasting effect on literature as a whole. Hughes’ work was influential in the rise of African American literature, as it was one of the earliest pieces of African American literature to receive widespread critical acclaim and recognition. It also served to bridge the gap between the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights movement, and its themes are still relevant today.

Critical Interpretation of Dreams by Langston Hughes

The poem “Dreams” by Langston Hughes has been widely criticized as being a representation of the stereotypes of African Americans, as well as a romanticized view of the African American experience. Critics have argued that it idealizes the African American struggle and does not give enough attention to the actual struggles many African Americans were facing. They argue that it does not address the systemic racism that African Americans were subjected to and underestimates the difficult circumstances in which many African Americans were living.

In response to these criticisms, Hughes’ supporters have argued that the poem serves more as a call to action than a romanticization of the African American experience. They argue that the poem’s main focus is not on the suffering, but on the strength and resilience of African Americans to overcome obstacles and never give up on their dreams. They point out that although the poem’s language is often poetic and figurative, it conveys a powerful message of hope to African Americans and serves as a reminder to always keep dreaming.

Interpretations in Popular Culture

In recent years, Langston Hughes’ “Dreams” has been used in popular culture in various ways. The poem’s main theme of never giving up and always believing in your dreams has been widely resonating with people in modern society. The poem has been featured in films, such as in the Academy Award nominated movie “Selma,” which tells the story of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. The poem is also featured in the TV series “Black-ish.” Various musicians have also used lines from the poem in their songs, such as Kendrick Lamar and Lauryn Hill. In this way, Hughes’ poem has been used to inspire and empower modern audiences.

The poem has also been used in many educational institutions as a way to educate students about the struggles of African Americans and to remind them to never give up on their dreams. This poem is often used in high schools and universities around the world as a teaching tool to show students the power of hope and resilience and to inspire them to always strive for the best.


Langston Hughes’ “Dreams” is a beloved poem that has had a lasting impact on African American culture and literature as a whole. Through his words, Hughes was able to express the struggles of African Americans, while also providing them strength and hope to never give up. His poem has served as an inspiration to many and has had a significant influence on the African American civil rights movement. The poem has been widely used in popular culture, as well as in educational institutions, to inspire people of all backgrounds to never give up on their dreams.

Dannah Hannah is an established poet and author who loves to write about the beauty and power of poetry. She has published several collections of her own works, as well as articles and reviews on poets she admires. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a specialization in poetics, from the University of Toronto. Hannah was also a panelist for the 2017 Futurepoem book Poetry + Social Justice, which aimed to bring attention to activism through poetry. She lives in Toronto, Canada, where she continues to write and explore the depths of poetry and its influence on our lives.

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