Mother to Son

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McClendon, Jeremy
Eng 104
Professor miller
October 16, 2012

The poem “Mother to Son”, by Langston Hughes, is an inspiring poem. It is the epitome of what every parent should instill within their child and that is the success of our children. Langston Hughes was born in 1902 and was a well-known poet during the Harlem Renaissance. His poems were not personalized but spoke for all African Americans alike. In this poem there is significant meaning from a loving mother to her son through language, metaphors, imagery repetition and symbolism. The advice given in this poem is that life is like climbing stairs, it is not easy and sometimes you will stumble but you get back up and keep climbing those stairs. The poem is about a mother’s advice to her son about life and how it isn’t easy. The use of an extended metaphor compares the mother’s life to a stair. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” (Hughes 2), can mean her life has not been easy. This is in the second and last lines of the poem. The crystal stair can represent a life of comfort and lavishness, perhaps that meaning that life of the white people back in that era, 1920’s . It contrasts with the images of suffering and poverty (bare floors, splinters, missing boards, etc.). When using this imagery of “crystal stair”, we could imagine mother’s stairs were the complete opposite.

The details of the staircase are the life in which the mother has lived. “It’s had tacks in it” (Hughes 3), “And splinters” (4), which would mean pain, agony, aching or grief. This may infer that she has had these sorts of pains throughout her life. “And boards tore up” (5), indicates damage in one’s life. The use of imagery in these lines implies the mother may have suffered pain at every step of life. Hughes illustrates the mothers’ loneliness with “And places with no carpet on the floor”, implying it’s cold and naked making for a lonely environment. “Boards torn up” can also mean huge holes in mother’s life not making it...
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