In the poem "Dreams" by Langston Hughes, what are three literary devices the poet uses to reveal the theme?

In the poem "Dreams," Langston Hughes uses the literary devices of repetition, imagery, and metaphor to convey his theme that having dreams is vital to living a productive life.

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Langston Hughes's poem “Dreams” is only eight lines long, but it is packed with meaning and filled with literary devices that enhance its interest and beauty.

Hughes employs personification when he talks about dreams. Dreams, he says, are something that can die or leave. They cannot literally do so, of course, nor can they actually go anywhere, yet Hughes's choice of figurative language here makes us realize that dreams are something that can get away from us if we aren't careful. They can fade into nothingness or fly off into oblivion. By personifying dreams, Hughes makes the reader want to grasp onto them and hold them tightly.

Hughes also uses two metaphors when he speaks of life without dreams. When dreams die, he asserts, “Life is a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly.” Life is missing one of its critical elements, just like a bird that cannot use its wings. Life cannot flourish without dreams. Hughes also says that without dreams, “Life is a barren field / Frozen with snow.” It is lifeless and cold.

Notice, too, the vivid imagery that Hughes inserts into these two metaphors. Through his words, we can easily picture a little bird flopping on the ground, its wing hanging down useless as it struggles to rise into the air and fly away. We can also envision a field covered with snow and frozen with ice. We are unable to walk across it with ease, for we would sink deep into the snow or slide around on the ice. Everything in the field lies dead or dormant. These images help us better understand what life is like without dreams: painful, useless, dormant, and even dead.

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In addition to metaphor, Langston Hughes uses repetition, imperative sentences, and imagery in his poem to make the point that having dreams or aspirations about a better future is central to a productive life.

Repetition creates a sense of rhythm and helps us remember a poet's words. Hughes repeats the same beginning phrases in the first three lines in both stanzas. This creates something very similar to anaphora, a literary device in which the same beginning words are repeated in consecutive lines. Both stanzas one and two contain the words "hold fast to dreams," "for," and "life is," creating a parallel structure.

In this poem, the speaker is giving suggestions or commands, likely to the reader; thus, the two stanzas contain imperative sentences. Because readers feel that Hughes is speaking directly to them, they are more likely to pay attention to his words and to imagine what they might feel like without dreams or aspirations.

Finally, Hughes uses imagery to create an emotional response. Imagery is description that uses any of the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell. In stanza 1, Hughes evokes the image of a bird with a broken wing that cannot fly to convey the sadness of not having dreams. In stanza 2, he likens giving up on dreams to a field frozen with snow. This is a bleak, cold image that communicates the deathlike feeling of not having aspirations.

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In the first and fifth lines of the poem—"Hold fast to dreams"—the speaker uses a metaphor to compare dreams to something tangible, something to which a person could actually hold on tightly. Next, dreams are personified and given the human attribute of being able to die in the second line of the poem. In lines three and four, a metaphor compares life to "a broken-winged bird / That cannot fly": all of these devices portray dreams as something incredibly important, even absolutely vital, to one's ability to live a fulfilling life. Hughes suggests that a dream can permanently go away, that it can fatally, finally disappear. Then, it can leave a person like a bird without wings: going nowhere and unable to do what one is meant to do. Another metaphor compares life to "a barren field / Frozen with snow" (lines 7–8). Nothing grows in such a field, just like a person cannot grow, it seems, without dreams. Their life becomes empty and cold.

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The theme of “Dreams” by Langston Hughes is about not giving up on what you want out of life. Hughes says to “Hold fast to dreams” and not let them go, for if you do, your life will be meaningless and unfulfilled.He shows this theme through his use of figures of speech. “Life is a broken-winged bird. . .That cannot fly” is the first metaphor he uses. Hughes compares losing your dreams to living a life like a bird that is unable to soar and achieve flight, something essential to the bird’s happiness. The second metaphor, “Life is a barren field frozen with snow” also represents how a life without dreams is similar to one frozen in a barren field. Life would not have any meaning because giving up your dreams is also giving up on your potential and opportunity. 

Finally, Hughes also uses alliteration and repetition to create effects in the poem. “Dreams die”, “broken-winged bird”, and “field frozen” are examples of alliteration that give the particular words emphasis, and therefore, a deeper message to the reader. Repeating the words, “Hold fast” also adds to the overall theme of not giving up and having motivation to keep seeking your dreams.


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