Similes make comparisons of two things using the words "like" or "as." For example, "The car was as red as an apple." Similes can also use the words "than" or "as if," such as in, "She was larger than life," and "He worked as if his life depended on it."
Similes can have different levels of descriptiveness based on what the writer desires. For example, "blue as the sky" is less descriptive than the simile, "She was as cold as temperatures in Antarctica." Other examples include: "fast as a cheetah," "slow as a turtle," "tastes like chicken" and "eats like a horse."
Similes are often found in poetry and have the purpose of creating an image in the mind of the reader. Langston Hughes's poem "A Dream Deferred" contains many similes. These similes, including "dry up like a raisin in the sun," "fester like a sore" and "stink like rotten meat," all serve to describe what happens when deferring a dream.
When found in literature, similes can keep the reader's interest or inform the reader. For example, the simile "stuck like a burr" from "Little Women," serves to add flavor to the writing. Like the use of similes in poetry, writers use similes in literature to create an entertaining picture in the mind of the reader.