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

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A simile is a figure of speech in which an author makes a comparison between two unlike things. Using the words "like" or "as" confirms the similarity. The purpose is to emphasize the description or make it more vivid.

In his poem "Harlem," Langston Hughes speaks about the frustration experienced by African Americans in having to delay or set aside their desire or dream to attain success by comparing it to ordinary, concrete, tangible experiences to which the audience can relate.

Hughes effectively uses five similes by asking whether this deferred dream is something that

  • dries up like a raisin in the sun
  • festers like a sore and then run
  • stinks like rotten meat
  • crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet
  • just sags like a heavy load

The first four images speak of neglect and abandonment, while the last relates to a burden which, by its very nature, suggests disillusionment and depression. These powerful expressions propose that dreams require hard work, care, and attention.

The accentuated final question...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 880 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team