'Hope' is the Thing with Feathers vrs Harlem

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
A compare/contrast essay about 'Hope' is the Thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson and Harlem by Langston Hughes

Submitted: April 29, 2011

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Submitted: April 29, 2011

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Daniel Andrews
Mr. Anderson
English 1 A


Have you ever had a hope, a dream, which you used to keep yourself going? To keep you happy? And has it ever come to pass that that very hope, or that very dream, is destroyed, loses it’s sheen? Well it just so happens to be that there are two poems that each deal with a separate part of that all-to-common tale; “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson and “Harlem” by Langston Hughes are those two poems. Dickinson’s poem addresses the positive part of that tale, in which the person involved feels great, but on the other side Hughes addresses the negative side of that tale with his poem in which the hope or dream becomes lost. In the following characters we will show that “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, and “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers” by Emily Dickinson, from looking at metaphors and rhymes, have a number of differences, still, there are similarities such as alliteration and imagery.

One difference that was mentioned previously was metaphors. The metaphors we found in these poems were different in the case that “Harlem” used metaphors to compare hopes and dreams to something negative, as shown in this quote from line eleven, “Or does it explode?”; meanwhile “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” used metaphors to link hope to something beautiful, as we can see in the quote “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers”(1). So “Harlem” uses metaphors to show the negative side of hopes and dreams, on the other hand “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” uses more optimistic metaphors.

Langston Hughes’ poem and Emily Dickinson’s poem have another difference too: rhymes. In Langston’s poem he uses no approximate rhymes, instead he uses only strict rhymes shown here: “Does it stink like rotten meat?”(6) and “like a syrupy sweet?”(8). This use of strict rhymes gives Hughes’ poem a tense feel, but in Dickinson’s poem she uses approximate rhymes, shown here: “And sore must be the storm-”(6) and “That kept so many warm-”(8) and this use of approximate rhymes gives the poem a much more relaxed feel. Langston Hughes’ poem “Harlem” and “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson not only have differences in their use of metaphors but also in their use of rhymes.
“Harlem” by Langston Hughes and “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson do have a couple of similarities, one is in their use of imagery. In “Harlem”, Langston Hughes used this imagery, “-like a syrupy sweet?”(8), to make the reader view hopes and dreams as something that will fade away and not last, but in “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” looking at this quote, “And sings the tune without the words-”(3), hope is addressed as something so wonderful it will last forever. Although there are quite a few differences between “Harlem” and “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” there is at least one similarity as shown in these quotes.
A second similarity that the two poems have is alliteration. In most poems the alliteration goes with the tone of the poem, but in these two particular poems they go against the tone. An example of alliteration is “like a syrupy sweet?” (8) which can mean that a dream is something you should take a bite out of and never give up on. This alliteration is hopeful and upbeat whereas the rest of “Harlem” is more regretful. Similarly in the poem “‘Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers the alliterations go against the tone. The quote “And on the strangest Sea”  makes hopefulness seem scary and unknown. Therefore “‘Hope’ is the Thing with feathers” and “Harlem” are both similar because both of the poem’s alliterations go against the tone of the poem.
In conclusion, “‘Hope’ is a thing with feathers” and “Harlem” have differences, but also some similarities. The imagery in both poems show that hopes and dreams can be something desirable, and the alliterations go against the tone of each poem. On the other hand the metaphors in “‘Hope’ is a thing with feathers” gives an uplifting angle on hopes and dreams, but in “Harlem” the comparisons give a negative feeling. We also mentioned that Emily Dickinson’s poem has approximate rhymes while Langston Hughes’ has exact rhymes. We can conclude by saying that though both "Harlem" and "'Hope' is the thing with feathers", while having similarities in subject, alliteration, and imagery, still emit a different tone from their unique views of hopes and dreams and their use of metaphors and rhymes.


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