Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Topics: African American, Langston Hughes, Tell Pages: 2 (693 words) Published: March 16, 2004
"Mother to Son"

"Mother to Son", published in 1922 by Langston Hughes, was one of the most famous poems he had written. Hughes was African-American and was born in 1902. While living in the 1900's Hughes and his family experienced the hardships of racism, discrimination, and slavery. Therefore, this poem is not only words of encouragement from a mother to a son, but also words of encouragement to the entire African American community. This poem of inspiration let the community know that the difficulties that they all had to endure at the time were felt by all and that they were not alone in the struggle. Hughes wrote this from the standpoint of a mother encouraging her son to keep going no matter what hardships he may experience. She explained that life is hard and he is not the only one who has had to endure the experience of life's hard lessons.

The poem passes on a message from a mother to her son instructing him that he must remain optimistic despite the obstacles that life can bring. The mother compares her life to a set of old broken down wooden stairs. Using the metaphor that "life for me has not been any set of crystal stairs" (2, 20), she implies to her son that her life has not been easy or pleasant either. The mother continues to tell her son of the obstacles that she has overcome by describing the old wooden stairs. She says "it has had tacks in it and splinters and boards torn up and places with no carpet on the floor - bare." (3-7)

The tacks on the stairs were placed there by another person representing the wrong doings to her by another person and the splinters may have been the result of her actions. These tacks and splinters symbolize the cruel reality of life, as opposed to the ideal fantasy life, such as having a set of "crystal stairs". Through the voice of the mother, Hughes uses the set of stairs as a metaphor for life and the hardships that they can bring. In spite of these obstacles the mother has moved up the stairs and has...
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