Harlem Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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Please identify figurative language in Langston Hughes' poem, "Harlem."

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In Langston Hughes' poem entitled "Harlem," the "dream deferred" here describes the American Dream that was available to all white people, but not to the black man. Even when laws were changed to guarantee equality, the dream was not theirs. There are several instances described in the poem that compare the "dream deferred" (or the American Dream) using similes. A simile compares two dissimilar things that share similar characteristics. It is...

...a comparison of two dissimilar things using "like" or "as"

There is a simile in the line "Does it dry up like a raisin?". Here "it" refers to a "dream deferred" in the first line.

The speaker is stating that a "dream deferred" (or put off), not realized, is like a shriveled up raisin: a grape that was once juicy and plump, now dried up from sitting, abandoned in the sun.

There is a simile in the second image as well: "Or fester like a sore…" Here...

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jamphilips | Student

In Langston Hughes poem "Harlem" or as many refer to it "A Dream Deferred", there are many examples of figurative language used. Most of them are similes. In the first stanza, he uses 4 similes comparing how a dream deferred might look like. These similes are "like a raisin in the sun", "fester like a sore", "stink like rotten meat", and "sugar over like a syrupy sweet". In the same stanza Hughes also uses one example of personification by sating "and then run?". Here, he  is giving an inanimate object a human like ability by asking if a dream deferred gets up and run.

In the second stanza there is one example of figurative language used and it is a simile as well. He says "...it just sags like a heavy load".