Harlem Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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Identify two examples of simile in "Harlem" and describe their connection to a "dream deferred."

There are multiple similes in Langston Hughes's "Harlem," all of which form a response to his initial question: what happens to a dream when it is deferred, or put off? He compares the deferred dream to such disparate things as a raisin in the sun, rotten meat and a festering sore.

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Figurative language is a device used by poets and other writers to create a more effective impression upon readers. Figures of speech such as similes, for example, allow authors to express concepts that go beyond the literal meanings of the words they use. Readers are able to understand deeper meanings in the language employed by writers using these devices. During the Harlem Renaissance of the mid-twentieth century, Langston Hughes demonstrated the power of figurative language to craft insightful portrayals of African American life.

In the short poem, “Harlem,” Hughes chooses the device of simile to cement his impressions upon the minds of his readers. His underlying purpose is to sway his readers toward a better understanding of the plight of African Americans in the United States whose dreams are often dashed by a lack of means to fulfill their destinies.

Hughes begins his poem with a rhetorical question : “What happens to a dream deferred?” In order to allow his readers to reach their...

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