The Metaphor – Comparing Life

Last updated: October 10, 2017 at 22:14 pm
life and dreams

Life may be compared to an eagle, and dreams to the wings of the eagle.

The ideas of life, death and time are popular themes which pervade many works of literature.

The metaphor is a literary device which compares two things without using the words “like” or “as.” Sometimes, the metaphor makes an outright comparison, saying that one thing is another, for example:

Dawn is a fisherman.

At other times, the comparison is suggested or implied, example:

The rain drummed on the roof.

Here is a poem which compares life to two things: first to a bird; then to a field. At the same time, the poem compares dreams to the wings of the bird, and the fertility or productivity of the field.


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.

In the poem “Dreams,” by Langston Hughes, the poet uses several metaphors to make several comparisons. Firstly, the poet compares life to a bird, and dreams to the wings of the birds. It suggests that with our dreams our life takes wings and soars to new heights, but if we lose our dreams, the wings of life are broken.

In the second stanza, the poet makes the following comparisons: firstly, he compares life to a field; secondly, he compares dreams to the elements that make the field fertile and productive, such as sunshine, rain, rich soil, crops and flowers.

The comparison suggests that our dreams are what brings fertility and productivity to our “field” of life, and if we let go of our dreams, then our life becomes a “barren field frozen with snow.”

Sometimes, in English exams, you may be asked to “comment on the effectiveness of the metaphor.”  In this example, you may answer as follows:

The metaphor is effective because it vividly expresses how dreams empower and brings productivity to our lives.

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