Dreams by Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis

Dreams by Langston Hughes: Summary & Analysis
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  • 0:00 Importance of Dreams
  • 0:49 Text of 'Dreams'
  • 2:21 Analysis of 'Dreams'
  • 3:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Have you given up on a dream or are you still holding on? In Langston Hughes' poem 'Dreams,' the author illustrates the importance of having dreams. In this lesson, we'll summarize the poem and analyze what Hughes meant.

Importance of Dreams

The woodworker Geppetto knew all about dreams. In the Disney classic, Pinocchio, he crafts a wooden marionette, dreaming that one day his puppet might be a real boy. Geppetto even makes a wish on a star, for as the song says, 'When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.' Geppetto's wish is granted and the wooden puppet known as Pinocchio becomes a real boy.

For Geppetto, following his dreams meant wishing on a star.
dreams, pinocchio, langston hughes

It's an elementary example, but a good lesson about holding onto your dreams no matter the obstacle. A poet with a similar message is Langston Hughes, whose poem, 'Dreams,' in a short and sweet style, urges readers to hold fast to their dreams. Let's break down the poem and then take a deeper look at what Hughes may have been trying to convey.

Text of 'Dreams'

Since it's so brief, let's read the poem 'Dreams' in its entirety for clarity and meaning:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

It's only two stanzas and eight lines long, but 'Dreams' offers some basic instructions to those who read it: keep hold of your dreams, because without them the world can be a brutal world. Let's analyze the poem.

Hughes starts out by immediately admonishing readers with a simple piece of advice: to 'hold fast' to your dreams. These aren't the types of dreams you have at night while you're fast asleep, but rather the dreams of your future, the things you hope for, or the goals you want to achieve.

The author continues by telling us what will happen if we allow our dreams to die. Life overall, he says, is a 'broken-winged bird that cannot fly.' That's pretty dire imagery, isn't it? Essentially, the author is saying that dreams help to give our lives purpose and meaning, and without them, life is harsh and difficult.

In the second stanza, Hughes again urges readers to hold fast to their dreams. In this instance, the author compares the loss of a dream to living in a cold and barren field. Have you ever been out in a cold and barren field? There's no life, no joy, and nothing grows.

Analysis of 'Dreams'

Langston Hughes uses a few techniques aside from the language he has chosen to help drive home the importance of his message.

First, the brevity of the poem itself tells us that Hughes feels a sense of urgency when relaying this message. He has chosen his words carefully and deliberately to help the reader understand the importance of having dreams and holding on tight to them.

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