Analyze the figurative language in the poem "Dreams" by Langston Hughes.

"Dreams" by Langston Hughes uses two key metaphors. First, it imagines life as a "broken-winged bird," unable to fly in the absence of dreams. Its second metaphor depicts life as a "barren field / Frozen with snow." Both images suggest dreams are almost physical things with physical effects.

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Langston Hughes uses imagery, metaphor, apostrophe, repetition, and parallelism in this poem.

Imagery is description that employs any of the fives senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell. Hughes uses imagery to convey what it feels like to have one's dreams die or, in other words, to...

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Langston Hughes uses imagery, metaphor, apostrophe, repetition, and parallelism in this poem.

Imagery is description that employs any of the fives senses of sight, sound, touch, taste, or smell. Hughes uses imagery to convey what it feels like to have one's dreams die or, in other words, to become hopeless. Hopelessness is an abstract concept, so Hughes wants us to be able to emotionally feel what it is like through concrete images. He creates two metaphors to carry his images.

In the first metaphor he compares hopelessness to a "broken-winged bird." This raises our compassion as we imagine an innocent creature suffering and dragging around on the ground, unable to fulfill its destiny. We can see this, and it is a cruel, disturbing picture. In the second, he compares hopelessness or loss of dreams to a "barren field / Frozen with snow." This is both a visual image and a "touch" image, as we can feel the chill of the scene. This shows that after hopelessness makes people suffer, it makes them feel dead inside.

Hughes also uses apostrophe, which is a direct address to an unseen listener. Hughes's speaker is directly telling the person he is speaking to to "hold fast to dreams." He uses the literary device of repetition when he begins each of his two stanzas with that line. The repetition helps emphasize those words as important. He uses parallelism as well, repeating the same structure in the second stanza as the first.

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This poem by Langston Hughes is extremely brief, comprising two stanzas of four lines each, with abcb, aded rhyme. The brevity of the poem itself is impactful, as it underscores the simplicity of its message. Without dreams, life is empty, and we are incapable of achieving our goals.

The first metaphor Hughes uses to convey this idea imagines life as a "broken-winged" bird in the absence of dreams. This image presents dreams as a living thing, a vital part of the bird which represents our living essence. Without them, we will continue to exist, but we cannot fulfill our true and natural purpose. We cannot lift ourselves above the most basic level of existence in order to soar higher and achieve great things.

The second stanza again depicts dreams as something almost physical, to which we can "hold fast." Hughes encourages the reader to cling onto dreams because, again, they serve an important purpose. If dreams are allowed to "go," according to this stanza, life becomes a "barren field" covered with snow. The choice of metaphor is interesting: it is almost as if dreams are a tarpaulin or cloth protecting the field of our lives over the course of the winter months. When the protective layer of the dreams is taken away, the field is no longer fertile and able to bear fruit. It is instead frozen: it still retains its potential to grow beautiful things, but this potential is now locked away and cannot be reached.

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The metaphor in the first stanza, that "life is a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly" if one lets go of one's dreams conveys the hopelessness of life without dreams. The defining characteristic of birds, for most of us, is the fact that they can fly. When we think about a bird that can no longer fly, it seems hard to imagine how it could survive. In other words, it's possible, but really, what kind of existence would that be? It would seem as though the bird cannot do the thing it was born to do. So would we be without our dreams.

Further, in this stanza, dreams are personified and described as being able to die. This is especially significant because death is so final. It sounds as though, if dreams are allowed to die, they can never be resurrected, that we must live merely a half-life from then on.

The metaphor in the second stanza, that "Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow," really conveys the lost potential of a life without dreams. To be barren means that nothing can grow, and if this is applied to one's life, it means that all one's potential is lost. Pursuing our dreams, then, is what makes us grow and develop, and in the absence of dreams, this growth becomes impossible.

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The poem uses two metaphors to explain how important it is to hold fast to one's dreams. Each stanza states that, in the absence of dreams, life becomes something unpleasant. In the first stanza, if one allows one's dreams to die, the poet states that life will become "a broken-winged bird that cannot fly." The metaphor extends to a symbol: Birds often symbolize hope, freedom, and joy. If a person stops dreaming--stops pursuing the things that make him or her excited, happy, and fulfilled--then that person's life will lack hope and will not result in a feeling of soaring happiness. 

In the second stanza, the poet uses a metaphor to compare a life without dreams to a "barren field frozen with snow."  A barren field does not produce a crop, and crops don't grow in the winter. Again, the metaphor suggests a symbol: Crops represent fruitfulness or productivity in one's life--accomplishing things one can be proud and which enrich the lives of others. Someone who lets his or her dreams go is going to be unproductive in life. That person will have no motivation to do good things to benefit himself or others. 

The poem also personifies dreams, suggesting they can "die," as if they are living things. "Hold fast" implies that dreams are tangible and can be physically held on to, so this is also a metaphor. Letting dreams "die" or "go" means losing out on the possibilities that one could have attained by holding onto those dreams. 

Langston Hughes' short eight-line verse is packed with figurative language emphasizing how important dreams are to one's life.

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