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Let's look at Christina Rossetti's poem, "Flint", to understand how poets use similes in their poems. In the first stanza of this poem, the poet compares the vivid green color of an emerald to grass, "An emerald is as green as grass," the bright red ruby to blood, "A ruby red as blood," and the brilliant blue of a sapphire to the sky (heaven), in the line, "A sapphire shines as blue as heaven."<br><br>In this poem the poet uses similes to describe different precious stones and their sparkling brilliance, but she uses these comparisons to go on to elaborate on the virtues of a substance like flint. What does the use of the connective "But" in the last line suggest? The poet's use of "But" seems to suggest that though it may not look appealing, flint has the ability to create fire. It is interesting that the poem suggests that while precious stones can be compared to something or the other, flint stands out for its own merits, and is incomparable! The poem thus tells readers to look beyond the surface to see true potential.
Another poem that is rich in similes is John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning", in which the speaker addresses his love after their separation. Donne opens the poem with a two-stanza simile and weaves some shorter ones into the rest of the poem, which advocates that he and his love maintain an emotional high ground even during their separation.<br><br>Read Donne's <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341219"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>"A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning"</u></font></a>. In the opening simile of the poem, the poetic voice compares the parting with his lover to the passing of virtuous men, "as virtuous men pass mildly away," who depart from the world quietly, without making a fuss. What does this metaphor tell about the love shared by the speaker and his beloved? This comparison suggests that the speaker and his love will part without crying over it, because to do otherwise would reduce their love to a profane, worldly level, as expressed in the lines, "So let us melt, and make no noise,/No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;/'Twere profanation of our joys/To tell the laity our love."<br><br>With these comparisons, the speaker depicts how his love is not the ordinary love of mere mortals but rests on a celestial level. The simile reveals how the love that the speaker and his beloved share is not sense-based, it transcends the physical so, for them, being apart won't cause distress.<br><br>Why does the speaker compare the connection that the his soul has with his love's to gold? The speaker does so to depict how just as gold doesn't lose value, doesn't undergo a "breach", no matter how thinly it's flattened, "Like gold to aery thinness beat." so too their love can endure the stretch of physical separation.
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Donne moves from the conventional comparisons to an unconventional one in the third simile of the poem, where the speaker compares the shared by him and his beloved to the twin feet of a compass, "As stiff twin compasses are two." The speaker calls his love the "fixed foot" while he is the moving foot of the compass. The speaker further explains how when the moving foot of the compass stretches far away, the fixed foot that sits at the center too leans in that direction, "Yet when the other far doth roam,/It leans, and hearkens after it." And as the moving foot returns home the fixed foot "grows erect, as that comes home." This simile establishes how both the speaker and his love complete each other just as the two feet of a compass complete a circle, "And makes me end, where I begun." With this metaphor, the poetic voice reiterates how his love is unaffected by distance and how he may go away but will always stay connected and come back to his beloved.<br><br>Modern feminist critics, however, have interpreted this simile as a reinforcement of women's traditional roles: She's supposed to stay close to home to fulfill her homely duties, while the man can go out on adventures and chase his dreams, while the woman anchors him. Do you relate to this interpretation of the poem? Do you find similar implications anywhere else in the poem?
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If you were writing an analytical essay about simile in this Donne poem, which of these arguments would be best supported by the poem?
The speaker's love is like dead men because they are going to heaven and his love is heavenly.
The speaker and his love are like the feet of a compass because together they form a circle that unites them.
The speaker's love is like gold because it is more refined than common forms of love that require sensual contact.
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While the similes Donne uses in his poem depict stoic acceptance of the pain of separation, Emily Dickinson's poem, "After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes", describes how people go numb in response to great pain. Read <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341220"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>this poem</u></font></a> to understand how the poet uses similes in the poem to express this response to painful feelings.<br><br>How do the references to "great pain," "Tombs," and "stiff Heart" in the first stanza tie in with the poem's theme? What does the comparison between "Nerves" and "Tomb" point to? Did you notice the use of "He" in the third line? What does it stand for? Dickinson, with the line, "The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs," compares nerves to tombs, which are cold and stony; further, tombs are ceremonious in that they provide an external representation of a dead person and are an artifact of the ritual of a funeral-ties back to "formal feeling" in the title. So the poet is saying that to cope with their loss, mourners become cold and unexpressive like a tomb, and they display in an equally dispassionate way the hidden "life" that they merely mark. The "He" here refers to Christ. The lines seem to suggest that just as Christ bore the heavy cross, so do mourners carry a "stiff Heart."<br><br>In the second stanza, the poet builds on this inexpressiveness and coldness by comparing the mourner's feet to quartz, which is a mineral found in transparent glass. Do you any relation between "A Quartz contentment" and the numbness of pain? It is known that quartz is a crystallized mineral, so "quartz contentment" can be taken to mean the frozen state of contentment, or no contentment. This carries forward the theme of numbness or the inability to feel anything.<br><br>What does the reference to the "Hour of Lead" signify? Lead here is connected to "leaden," which means feeling gloomy and listless. The poet uses this reference to elaborate on the numbness of pain. This gloominess climaxes with a simile in the line, "As freezing persons recollect the snow--" This likens people who are suffering from a great loss to people who are freezing in the snow. They react to the snow first by feeling the shocking cold, then numbness sets in, and finally the numbness dissipates and they feel the agonizing pain and express their discomfort or pain, expressed in the poem's last line, "First - Chill - then stupor - then the letting go -". The poet's use of the phrase "letting go" is interesting because she doesn't specify what the mourner lets go: pain or desire to live. This simile effectively depicts how different people react to the pain of loss.
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Now that you have seen how similes form a good deal of the meaning of Dickinson's poem, which description best fits its use of similes?
A. People experience great agony after great loss because the formal trappings of mourning are too cold to match the depth of their feelings.
B. People, who feel extreme despair while mourning, are unable to act, to get their body to move, and so they grow still like a stone.
C. People who have experienced a great loss must stay in a state of leaden numbness for some time before they can finally get past their deep sadness.
D. People in mourning seem to be as still as stone, as lifeless as lead, but they are privately moving and feeling, in a mechanical way.
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"Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space." -- Orson Scott Card, author and critic
<b>Metaphor in Poetry</b><br><br>Like simile, metaphor is a figure of speech that is used in poems to convey meaning by comparing two things that are unlike. Metaphor as a figure of speech states that one thing is something else, and the comparisons are drawn between literally incompatible items. Unlike similes that use qualifying words like "as" or "like," metaphors are implicit comparisons that directly state that something is something else, for example, "When I was working on getting all my college applications out, my dad was my rock." This metaphor lends certain qualities of a rock to the dad: his presence and support was steady and stable.<br><br>Apart from simple metaphors, poets also use extended and controlling metaphors. Extended metaphors, also called telescoped metaphors, are strings of metaphors that build from one to another in sequential lines of a poem. On the other hand, controlling metaphors extend across parts or whole of a poem and control the development of the poem or a portion of it. Controlling metaphors are also called conceits. Now, you'll look at some poems that use controlling and extended metaphors.
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That Time Of Year Thou Mayst In Me Behold
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
This activity will have 4 tabs:
The first tab will show the 1st quatrain and have two clickable hotspots: one on the title and one on "When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang"
The second tab will show the 2nd quatrain and have a single hotspot: "In me thou see'st the twilight of such day"
The third tab will show the 3rd quatrain and have a single hotspot: "In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,"
The fourth tab will show the last couplet and have a single hotspot: "To love that well which thou must leave ere long."
On clicking the title: shutterstock_17267710
This sonnet addresses the speaker's beloved who, he assumes, perceives him as aging. The speaker here compares his state of aging to different things across the three quatrains (four-line stanzas) and the couplet (the last, two-line stanza). This sonnet uses extended metaphors to forward its central argument.
On clicking "When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang": shutterstock_17119324
In the first quatrain of this sonnet, the speaker compares his age to trees at the end of autumn and the onset of winter. Just as the trees with sparse yellow leaves still hanging off them are affected by autumn and which tremble in the cold, so is the poet apprehensive about the end of his youthful days and about entering middle-age. Further the speaker draws attention to how the loss of the beauty of youth has reduced him to "Bare ruined choirs," which doesn't see the presence of "the sweet [singing] birds" anymore.
TAB 2: On clicking "In me thou see'st the twilight of such day"
In the second quatrain, the speaker compares himself to twilight, a time when the day is poised to end, to show how he is past his youth and on the threshold between youth and old age. The poet further builds this metaphor to reflect how just as day is usurped by twilight, which will fade into the approaching night, so will his withering body be put to rest by death.
In the third quatrain, the speaker compares his own weakening body to the dying embers of a fire. It was once bright and roaring, but now emits only remnants of warmth. Similarly, the speaker was once full of youth and vitality, but is now approaching old age and has minimal vitality. The speaker with the lines, "Consumed with that which it was nourished by." conveys how the "dying embers" of old age have doused his fiery youthfulness.
Across the poem, the speaker first compares his aging to the passage from fall to winter, then to a time of day from sunset to darkness, and finally to embers that will soon die out and turn to grey ash. These metaphors that move from the approach of harsh winter to nightfall to still warm, but dying embers, build up the inevitability of death by graphically representing ways the speaker is brushing up against it. The couplet in the end of the sonnet synthesizes the string of metaphors as it returns the focus to the speaker's love, whose love for him helps him withstand his gradual deterioration and the slow but steady slide toward death.
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Let's now look at an example of the use of a controlling metaphor in a poem. Read Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem, <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341221"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>"Sympathy"</u></font></a>, which has a single controlling metaphor that carries forward the theme of the poem.<br><br>In this poem, the "caged bird" is a controlling metaphor for people who feel confined, but long for freedom and equality. Along with the controlling metaphor of the "caged bird", with the repetition of the line, "I know what the caged bird feels" across the poem, the poet empathizes with the plight of someone who is imprisoned.<br><br>In the first stanza, the poet talks about all the opportunities the caged bird misses because of its confinement. Similarly, lines such as "When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass." and "When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,/And the faint perfume from its chalice steals," depict how the caged bird pines for these nature's delights, which are kept away from him.<br><br>The second stanza describes how the bird rails against the cage, fighting to be free, even though the bird cannot escape the impenetrable cage. This is a metaphor for the strong desire for freedom, "When he fain would be on the bough a-swing." This struggle to gain equality and human rights is made especially graphic with the violent and yet hopeless quality in these lines, "Till its blood is red on the cruel bars." The lines "And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars/And they pulse again with a keener sting-" depict how this relentless struggle has been going on and will continue going on.<br><br>The third stanza describes how the bird, after its futile struggle, doesn't quiet down. Instead, even with bruised wings, it sings praying for freedom, "But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core." Is Dunbar writing just about a caged bird, or does the caged bird represent something else?
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When Dunbar's background and the historical context of this poem is taken into account, what do you think the "caged bird" refers too? Why does the poet emphatically state, "I know what the caged bird feels!" in the poem?<br><br>Dunbar wrote this poem in 1899, after the Civil War, when African Americans were subjected to severe and overt racism, particularly in the Southern states. With the help of this information, you can see that the controlling metaphor of the poem, the "caged bird," implicitly describes the feelings and experiences of African Americans in the early 20th century, who were struggling for freedom and equality.<br><br>The impenetrable cage and the diehard efforts of the bird to free itself are metaphors for the rigid shackles of slavery and the African American struggle to be free from slavery, which left them with bruised wings. Further, the poet depicts how in spite of the atrocities and hardships they endured, African Americans continued their freedom struggle.<br><br>The metaphor of the prayer in the last stanza is implicitly the caged bird's song, and by extension, the "caged" African American's song, a song born of the ongoing struggle and ongoing frustration of Dunbar's times.
Screen 14: Please superimpose the caged bird image on the Flying bird image.
shutterstock_42919681 and shutterstock_50375305
Paul Dunbar's poem, "Sympathy", and the controlling metaphor of the "caged bird" inspired Maya Angelou into writing a poem. Read Maya Angelou's <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341224"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>"I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings"</u></font></a>. Clearly Angelou's "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" adds a second aspect of the free bird to the existing metaphor of the caged bird in Dunbar's poem.<br><br><b>Lesson Activity - Self-Checked</b><br>List a few ways that Angelou's poem is akin to Dunbar's "Sympathy", and some ways in which it is a departure from Dunbar's poem. Does Angelou's poem update Dunbar's poem or answer it? What does it add to and borrow from Dunbar's poem?<br><br>What does the "free bird" in Angelou's poem represent? Do the two contrasting images of the birds make Angelou's poem a sharper social commentary or just different from Dunbar's "Sympathy"? Does Angelou's poem add a dimension to Dunbar's poem? Is the song part of Dunbar's poem taken further in Angelou's poem?
Screen 15: Maya Angelou's image from Dover (1/3)
In her poem, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings", written in 1969, Maya Angelou adds to Dunbar's controlling metaphor of the caged bird-both the overt lack of freedom in the metaphor and the implicit struggle for freedom among African Americans-a second, contrasting one, that of the "free bird", which clearly refers to people with freedom and implicitly to Caucasians who take their freedom for granted.<br><br>The reference to the "caged bird" can be interpreted as an important mini-metaphor within the poem that supports the larger one of the "free bird." The two metaphors establish the truth that unlike the free bird, the caged bird's wings are clipped, his dreams don't come true, instead his life is a nightmare. Since the caged bird can't soar across the skies and live to his full potential he has to be content with just dreaming and singing of his hopes for freedom, but even that is done in fear.<br><br>These metaphors can be interpreted as a contrast between the constraints on the African Americans and the freedoms enjoyed by other Americans. The poem shows how African Americans were suppressed and not given the chance to discover their potential or to work on their dreams. On the other hand the Caucasians had a wide range of opportunities at their disposal.
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While Paul Dunbar's poem depicts the oppression faced by African Americans with the metaphor of a "caged bird," Maya Angelou's poem uses this metaphor alongside the metaphor of a "free bird," which refers to Caucasians, to contrast between African Americans' lack of freedom and opportunities and the freedoms enjoyed by other Americans.<br><br>Dunbar's poem, written post the Civil War, is about the struggle for equality, which left many African Americans with bruised wings and prayer on their lips. Seventy years later, Angelou's poem depicts how the "caged bird" is still yearning for a free sky while its free counterpart "dips his wings/in the orange sun rays/and dares to claim the sky," has the "breeze" and "fat worms," and "names the sky his own." Even after years of struggle the fears and limitations imposed on African Americans have not been relaxed and it comes across in Angelou's poem when the caged bird is described as singing with a "fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still" and the entire stanza, "But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams/his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream/his wings are clipped and his feet are tied/so he opens his throat to sing." Because the caged bird can't soar in the sky, or catch worms, or ride a breeze like the free bird, all he can do is dream of and sing for freedom.<br><br>Both Dunbar and Angelou's poems were true to their period and were empathetic toward the African Americans, who did not get opportunities to realize their potential. The comparison in Angelou's poem, however, adds to Dunbar's idea and highlights the plight of African Americans in a more effective way, and thus, can be considered as a sharper social commentary as compared to Dunbar's poem.<br><br>When taken in the context of the African American struggle for freedom, the song and singing of the bird allude to the creation of the blues genre, which originated in the early 20th century, the singing of black gospel music, which originated in the 1920s, and freedom songs, which originated around the time of the Civil War in the 1860s and then again during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
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When interpreting the two poems to be about the African American struggle for equality, in what way is Dr. Maya Angelou's poem "I Know What The Caged Bird Sings" different from Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "Sympathy"?
A. The caged bird can be interpreted as a metaphor for African Americans.
B. The free bird can be interpreted as a metaphor for Caucasians.
C. The caged bird stays trapped inside its cage, but sings for freedom and equality.
Which statement best describes how the two poems, Dr. Maya Angelou's poem "I Know What The Caged Bird Sings" and Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem "Sympathy", use metaphor?
A. Angelou continues Dunbar's metaphor of the caged bird and suggests that singing of freedom is still the result of the lack of freedom and equality that Dunbar depicted in his poem and for his time.
B. Angelou takes the caged bird metaphor further than Dunbar did and brings in the history of the role that singing has played in the African American struggle for freedom, equality, and civil rights.
C. Dunbar uses the caged bird only to convey the difficult struggle African Americans had, while Angelou also uses it to show the progress that they have made to achieve freedom and equality since Dunbar's day.
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<b>Simile and Metaphor Analyzed</b><br><br>Now, that you've analyzed and understood poems rich in similes and poems that use metaphors, you'll proceed to learn a poem which uses both similes and metaphors. Read Langston Hughes's <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341225"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>"Harlem: A Dream Deferred"</u></font></a>, which is full of similes and ends with a metaphor. You can also watch <a href="http://redirect.platoweb.com/ 341226"> <font color="#247FB2"><u>the poem being recited</u></font></a>. In this poem, Hughes asks readers a series of rhetorical questions that include similes, followed by a tentative statement which is also a simile, and ends with a provocative metaphor. "Deferred" in the first line of the poem means something that is delayed or put off. What do you understand by a deferred dream? Do you recall any dream of yours that got deferred for some reason?<br><br><b>Lesson Activity - Self-Checked</b><br>What do the similes in Langston Hughes's "Harlem: A Dream Deferred" convey about a deferred dream? Does "a deferred dream" have any special meaning for someone in Hughes' position during the Harlem Renaissance?
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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?
Hughes's poem, "Harlem: A Dream Deferred", uses several similes to compare a deferred dream to unpleasant, unappealing things. First, the poem compares an unfulfilled dream to a dried up raisin, in the lines, "Does it dry up/Like a raisin in the sun?" This implies that the person who is dreaming will finally lose interest as time passes and watch his dream shrink away. If the dream does not dry up like a raisin, it could become a festering sore, "Or fester like a sore--/And then run?" This can be interpreted as how the person being denied his dream is likely to become restless and violent, and lash out at those who are responsible for blocking his ambitions.<br><br>Hughes goes on to compare the unfulfilled dream to rotten meat, "Does it stink like rotten meat?" which implies that the dream may begin to decay and die as the person gets tired of waiting for fulfillment, and will finally force the person to give up the dream. He also compares it to a "syrupy sweet" thing in the lines, "Or crust and sugar over--/like a syrupy sweet." What a positive reference is doing amidst the many negative ones, you may wonder. Here, this comparison isn't to say that the dream will stay sweet. Rather it compares the dream to sweet syrups, like honey or maple syrup that forms a crust and is inedible when left unused over a long time. The implication here is that like the crusty syrup, an idle dream becomes useless and is ruined, and the person's useful, intelligent goals and his inner goodness turn into idle thoughts of despair, doubt, and anger. Finally, he compares the dream to a heavy load, "Maybe it just sags/like a heavy load." This can be interpreted as thinking of an unfulfilled dream as something that lies heavily on the person's mind, and leaves him with thought about, "what if" and "if only," and ensures that he never feels content with the little that life has to offer.<br><br>This poem ends with a metaphor that is the last rhetorical question and is a truncated version of the other questions, along with the statement, that all went on to fill in the blank, "like a _____", "Or does it explode?" What is Hughes trying to convey with this sudden twist?
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By truncating the last question and leaving off the "like a X," the poet made this line not be a simile, and it has interesting effects on the poem. It opens up the poem to more interpretations. Presumably, it asks "Or does it explode like a bomb?" In fact, usually metaphors equate one object with another, but this doesn't. By asking if "it" explodes, it implicitly suggests it is an explosive thing. And because it is in the form of a question, this implied metaphor is sort of sneaky-it seems very quiet and tentative, even though its implications are strong. It is interesting to note that while the references are all unpleasant, the tone of the four similes is very different from the tone of the metaphor in the poem. The similes are more passive-they are about things imploding or caving in on themselves-while the explode metaphor is violent and is about things going out. This suggests all kinds of civil unrest that is likely to result from these pent up dreams and frustrations. Hughes builds from the unpleasant similes to this violent metaphor to convey that people's dreams cannot be contained forever. At some point, they will express themselves forcefully and refuse to be ignored.<br><br>This poem was written during the Harlem Renaissance wherein African Americans found their voice and started to speak up against racial discrimination. The Harlem Renaissance movement, that started in the 1920s and ended in the 1930s in Brooklyn, New York, was aimed at evoking pride about their African roots in African Americans and showing other races that they are not inferior and should not be discriminated against. In comparing an unfulfilled dream to things like stinking meat, a festering sore, and finally to an explosive, the poem warns Caucasians of the potential backlash they will face if the racial discrimination doesn't end.<br><br><b>Lesson Activity - Ungraded</b><br>Look back and think about the poems you analyzed in this lesson. Pick one of the poems and write a short poem modeled after it, using either a simile and a metaphor or both. While writing think about what kind of social commentary you'd want to make through your poem, how you would structure it, and what similes and metaphors would you use.
What can be interpreted from the metaphor that builds up from the similes in Langston Hughes's poem, "Harlem: A Dream Deferred"?
A. If a person's dreams are contained for long, the person will never be content with life.
B. If a person's dreams are contained for long, the person will be filled with self-doubt.
C. If a person's dreams are contained for long, there may be violent repercussions.
D. If a person's dreams are contained for long, they will be lost and long forgotten.
<b>Summary</b><br><br>Poems are pictures that convey truth about life as captured in a still life. You've heard that a picture speaks a thousand words. Poets, with a handful of words along with poetic devices such as simile and metaphor, invert this belief by creating pictures that lend themselves to many interpretations.<br><br>In this lesson, you've seen how poets effectively use similes and metaphors to enrich their poems, and extend their meaning and effectiveness. While John Donne raises love to a spiritual level using similes in his poem, "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning", Paul Dunbar and Dr. Maya Angelou depict the plight of African Americans using extended metaphors in their poems. Similarly, Hughes's poem "Harlem: A Dream Deferred" builds up through similes and finally "explodes" with the implicit metaphor while portraying the effect of suppressed dreams.<br><br>To fully enjoy and decipher the meaning and relevance of similes and metaphors, you need to relate them to the overall context of the poem. Something like enjoying the pizza in its glory with the cheese and toppings rather than picking on the toppings alone!