Metaphors and Similes Tenor, Ground and Vehicle How can you figure out a metaphor or simile if it does not make sense at first? Well, you break the metaphor or simile into tenor, vehicle and ground. What does that mean? The tenor of a metaphor or simile is the thing being described. Let’s look at Langston Hughes’s poem “Dreams.” Dreams 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. Tenor OK, in this poem, Langston Hughes is trying to describe what? Tenor He is trying to describe dead dreams—the kind we have lost for our future. Thus, for the first stanza, life with dead dreams is being compared to a broken-winged bird. What does he mean by that? Vehicle The vehicle of a metaphor or simile is the new meaning that the poet is attaching to the tenor. Vehicles carry things; thus, the vehicle of a metaphor carries new meaning. Vehicle So, the vehicle of Hughes’ metaphor is a “broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” Ground The meaning of a metaphor lies in the similarities between the thing being described and the thing that is describing it. This is the ground of a metaphor. So then, what do broken-winged birds and living with dead dreams have in common? Ground What are some traits of living with dead dreams? Ground What are some traits of a broken-winged bird? Ground What are the traits that overlap in your lists? The overlap is the ground, the meaning the poet intended to convey with the metaphor.