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Analysis of Poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes

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    Words of Wisdom

    “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”. Mother to Son, written by Langston Hughes is a poem of a mother trying to give her child a heads up on life, and how hard it may get at times. Life has been difficult for her and she wants to make sure that her son will have a better life than the one that was given to her. She teaches him to have perseverance and make the right choices. Her words of wisdom are surely of an uneducated woman that has plenty of advice to offer. In this poem, the mother is trying to inspire her son to keep going and accomplish his goals in life. Langston Hughes uses symbolism to describe the mother’s life. A splinter, which is an inflammatory pain that is deep inside the skin, is difficult to remove and find relief of the pain is used to describe a moment of her life. She mentions crystal stair, which represents clarity and perfection that was the life that was clearly not given to her, but wants her son to have. “And places with no carpet on the floor-Bare.” Bare is vulnerability of someone standing alone in line, with this she tells her son not let others pressure him into committing mistakes.

    She continuously explains to him that life is very difficult at certain points, but he needs to overcome these obstacles that stand in his way and never give up. “And reachin’ landin’s, and turnin’ corners.” This is a symbolism of the mother accomplishing her goals while climbing the stair of life. “Don’t you set down on the steps, Cause you find it’s kinder hard”. The mother tells her son that if he gives up on this stair, and takes a break, it will be harder to get up. Anaphora is used in this poem to emphasize the hardships that life can present you with. She does not want him to take a break and rest, she wants him to prepare and be ready for the challenges that life gives you so that he can overcome these obstacles. Also, when the author uses repetition, it emphasizes the meaning of the poem and supports the theme. “Tell”, “ain’t”, “crystal stair”, tracks”, “torn”, “places”, “carpet”, “time”, “peace”, “climb”, “corners”, “steps”: the repetition of p’s, t’s, and s’s is an imitation of climbing this stair because it leaves the reader completely breathless as if they were the ones climbing it. Using repetitions over and over again creates a sensation of never-ending continuation, which is reinforcing the theme of being courageous and having determination to keep climbing the non-crystal stair of life. “So, boy, don’t you turn back”. In this part of the poem, the mother is telling the son that he should accomplish anything he has on his mind without looking back. This poem was written around the civil rights movement time and these maybe the mother had not pleasant experiences with the whites here in America. She might be telling her son that no matter what went on in the past, all he needs to do is look forward to the future, stay strong, and accomplish his goals. The mother wants to make sure that his son does not live the life she lived, for it was full of pain and racism. She wants her son to stand out from the rest, and not to let the world tell him how he should live. In conclusion, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes, is a poem that not only encourages the son, but also the reader to overcome obstacles in life and to accomplish goals. In order for her son to achieve his goals, he must have perseverance and patience. He must not rest on the steps of the stair, because it is harder to keep going later. And last but not least, he should not look back at what the past was, but look forward to the future.

    Work Cited:
    Wasley, Aidan. “An overview of “Mother to Son”.” Poetry for Students. Detroit: Gale. Literature Resource Center. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

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