Mother to Son Analysis
Langston Hughes' moving poem "Mother to Son" empowers not only the son, but also the reader with precious words of wisdom. Through the skillful use of literary devices such as informal language, symbolism, metaphors, repetition, as well as clever use of format, Hughes manages to assemble up the image of a mother lovingly, yet firmly, talking to her son about life. This poem is an advice from a mother to son about life that will be challenging and do not think about giving it up.
The theme that this poet conveyed in the poem is determination to live without ever thinking giving up although the obstacles are harsh. Besides, it also emphasize regarding the struggle for life that the one will experience but still have the strength to face it day by day. It also shows about affection and as motivation of a mother to son that takes care of his son and gives advice so that the son will somehow be prepared to face the life.
Langston Hughes’ poem, “Mother to Son” resemble to the well-known expression “let’s have a father to son chat”. However, in this case, the saying is altered to “mother to son”. Poetic devices such as informal language, symbolisms, metaphors and repetition were used in this poem. This poem is written from the mother’s point of view in the advice form so the audience could feels the warmth and approachability of southern dialect. Readers will immediately have an impression of a middle-aged women battered by life’s struggles, with no formal education but plenty of life experiences to share with the son.
Informal language is cleverly used to visually portray a truthful motherly figure that has valuable advice to offer. The persona of the poem is an African-American showed by the dialect used with the missing ‘g’ such as in “climbin’, turning’ ” etceteras. It also use the word “ain’t” which is often used by the African-American.
In addition, symbols like “tacks” is used to illustrate the sharpness and discomfort of life’s obstacle. Splinters represent the inflammatory pain and the difficulties in removing and overcoming this pain in life. Even the metaphor of life being compared to stairs symbolizes the exhaustive uphill climb in life. In contrast, the crystal stair represents clarity and perfection, a life that the mother makes obvious was not given to her. In this poem, Hughes develops a sort of negative extended metaphor by having the speaker compare her life to a staircase that “ain’t been no crystal clear”. In other words, she develops the metaphor b describing what it isn’t rather than what it is.
Moreover, repetition adds to the imagery of the poem and helps support the theme. "Tell", "ain't", "crystal stair", "tacks", "splinters", "torn", "places", "carpet", "time", "peace", "climb", "corners", "steps": the constant repetition of p's, t's,and s's render the reader completely breathless imitating the exhaustive uphill climb of stairs. Even the repeated use of specific words adds to the effect of repetition. Using the word "and" repeatedly creates a constant feeling of never-ending continuation, consequently reinforcing the theme of courage and determination, both vital factors necessary to continue the "stair climbing."
In conclusion, Langston Hughes' moving poem "Mother to Son" empowers not only the son, but also the reader with precious words of wisdom. Through the skillful use of literary devices such as informal language, symbolism, metaphors, and repetition, Hughes manages to create the image of a mother lovingly, yet firmly, talking to her son about life. The advice is simple but pertinent to the poetic theme: in order to overcome the hurdles of life, a person must possess courage and determination.
Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) was an American poet, novelist, playwright, short story writer, and columnist. Hughes is known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance Robert Lee Frost, arguably the greatest American poet of the 20th...
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