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Hughes structured “Harlem” in two parts. The first part consists solely of the opening line, in which the speaker asks the question that drives the rest of the poem: “What happens to a dream deferred?” (line 1). The second part consists of the rest of the poem, the three stanzas of which are all indented, suggesting that they should be read as a response to the speaker’s initial query. Therefore, the two parts of the poem seem to follow a question/answer structure. As we continue beyond the first line, however, we find that the answers to the opening question are themselves phrased as questions. The use of rhetorical questions in the body of the poem thwarts the reader’s expectation for straightforward answers and creates a sense of tension. By listing a catalog of possible outcomes of deferring a dream, the speaker suspends us in uncertainty and concern. It isn’t until the end of the poem, when the speaker suggests that a dream deferred might explode, that the tension is symbolically released. But even then, the speaker seems unsure about whether the release of tension will ultimately be generative or destructive. As such, the poem ends on an ambiguous note.