Poems for Similes and Metaphors

Two good poems for comparison and exploration of similes and metaphors are “Dreams” and “A Dream Deferred,” both by Langston Hughes. “A Dream Deferred” uses similes and “Dreams” uses metaphors. Both share the same topic, so it is an easy way for students to see how similes and metaphors can both be used differently, but effectively. I would ask students to first identify the poetic devices being used and then try and figure out WHY Langston Hughes used the comparisons that he did. Why metaphors in one poem and similes in the other? How does it impact the theme?

“A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

“Dreams” by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

EXPANSION IDEAS: Have the students pick which of the poems they like best and write their own poem based on Langston Hughes’s style using topics such as hope, love, peace, forgiveness, anger, friendship, pain, joy, etc.


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