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What are all the similes in the poem "Harlem?"

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tonih35 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted October 6, 2010 at 8:40 AM via web

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What are all the similes in the poem "Harlem?"

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pearlepratt | Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted October 6, 2010 at 10:24 AM (Answer #1)

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The poem, “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, contains several similes. Each of these figures of speech is designed to describe the frustration and impotence felt by one who is prevented from realizing dreams. Moreover, each simile poses a possible response to the rhetorical question posed in the poem’s opening line: “What happens to a dream deferred?”  

There are five similes in the poem. The first simile suggests that the dream dries up, “like a raisin in the sun” lacking vitality and viability. The second simile offers the possibility that the dream rots, or “festers like a sore.” In this instance, the “dream” is figuratively blistering and decaying. Next, Hughes proposes that the dream may begin to “stink like rotten meat” tainting the dreamer with the rank and fetid smell of disappointment. Still, in others, the dream becomes sappy and sickening, “like a syrupy sweet.” The fifth and final simile states that the dream may begin to “sag like a heavy load” which burdens and encumbers the dreamer.

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