Mother to Son By: Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes n n n Most popular writer of the Harlem Renaissance. Wanted to capture the traditions of Black culture in written form. He was born in 1902 and died in 1967.
n On the road of life, many trials arise that one must overcome to make his or her life feel complete. n In Langston Hughes’s poem, “Mother to Son, ” these trials are a subject of concern for one mother. Hughes’ “ability to project himself” is seen in his use of dialect, metaphors, and tone. Although the dialect by itself does not seem to be an important quality, however, “when it is presented with all dramatic skill”, it is important.
Dialect n n In “Mother to Son”, Hughes uses dialect to show that the mother is not as well educated as many people. When she says phrases such as “For I’se still goin’, honey, ” it is understood that she means that she is still going, even though it is not clearly said. It also shows that she was of African American origin.
n The dialect may also show what area she may live in. When she talks about “boards torn up” it shows that she was from the poor part of the town. It does not seem relevant that she has torn up boards, but these are not found in a wealthy person’s mansion. Although the grammar of this dialect is wrong, it makes the woman seem more like a real person and less like someone who is fictional.
Figurative Language n Figurative language is imaginative language used by writers for descriptive effect. Instances of figurative language are called figures of speech.
Analogy n Analogy is a figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared on the basis of some characteristic they share. Similes and metaphors are types of analogies often used in literature.
n n A simile uses the words like or as to compare two things. Have you ever heard someone described as being “pretty as a picture”? That’s a simile. In a metaphor, one thing is described as if it were another. “this test is a breeze” is a metaphor.
Extended metaphor n The extended metaphor, which is a metaphor that is stated and then developed throughout the poem, is that the mother believes that “Life for [her] ain’t been no crystal stair”. the entire poem is a metaphor. The stairway is life. By explaining this to her son, she says that her life has not been fancy or easy, but she is getting by.
n The mother While climbing her stairs is “reachin’ landin’s, / and turnin’ corners, / and sometimes goin’ in the dark”. Although these are “homely” things someone may face on a staircase, they actually mean things that she has encountered in her life. She says that she reaches landings, which means that she has come up on places where she could rest.
n When she says she turns corners, it is when her life changes and she has to turn away from her original path. Her final comparison is when she goes in the dark, which are times in her life when she does not know what she can do to help herself, or when her path is not clear. The metaphors in this poem show a conflict in the mother’s life and make the poem seem complete.
Tone n When the mother explains to her son not to “set you down on the steps / ‘Cause your find it’s kinder hard. / Don’t you fall down now, ” the tone in her words is compassionate. The mother is simply trying to tell her son that she knows what he is going through, because she has been in rough times herself. Those rough times were troublesome but she had the strength to go on and get past them.
The mother’s character n The mother in “Mother to Son” is a strong, determined, courageous, and enduring woman. All she wants for her son is for him to keep climbing, and never give up. This endurance and enthusiasm shows her youthful spirit towards life. She wants this all because “[she is] still goin’, honey, / [she is] still climbin’, / and life for [her] ain’t been no crystal stair”.
Theme n This poem, “Mother to Son, ” by Langston Hughes teaches a valuable life lesson about never giving up. Even when life is getting more difficult and people think they cannot go on, they need to keep climbing.
Mother To Son n Well, son, I'll tell you: Life for me ain't been no crystal stair. It's had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor -Bare. But all the time I'se been a-climbin' on, And reachin' landin's, And turnin' corners, And sometimes goin' in the dark Where there ain't been no light. So boy, don't you turn back. Don't you set down on the steps 'Cause you finds it's kinder hard. Don't you fall now -For I'se still goin', honey, I'se still climbin', And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.