Mother To Son Poem Analysis Essay

Mother to Son Essay examples

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Every mother would like to see her child succeed in life. The following passage from the poem, "Mother to Son", by Langston Hughes demonstrates the love and concern a mother has for her son. She teaches him using her own life as an example; her life as a climb up a staircase. The imagery from the advice given in the stanza is explicit and poignant:

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 all torn up,

And places with no carpet on the floor -

Bare (line 1-7).

The metaphor in this poem conjoins life, and a staircase, "Well, son, I'll tell you:/ life for me ain't been no crystal stair." The mother says to her son, that…show more content…

Her life, as a stair, had splinters in it. When a person steps on a splinter, he or she might scream because it hurts. It is an irritating fragment of wood that anyone would want to remove from his of her skin. Since her life is full of splinters, it is full of frustrating tribulations. As splinters, tribulations are inevitable obstacles in her life that she has had to stumble upon but desperately wants to have resolved.

Contrast to a crystal stair, the mother climbs the stairs with boards that are torn up. In life, not only is it hazardous for a person to climb a staircase with boards that are torn up but also very deadly. There are usually yellow cautions signs to warn people to avoid such stairways. But the mother has no such pleasure because she has to climb such stairs in order to endure in her already troubled life. For example, although it was dark, and dangerous to be out, the mother does not have a choice of not going to work because she must work to pay her bills. The tacks, the splinters, the torn up boards, all are used to relate the hardships of the mother's life to the hard times of climbing up tattered stairs.

Contrast to someone's home that has had a crystal stair, her home is impoverished with uncarpeted floors. With tattered stairs, the mother also illustrates her floor as being bare. Finally, "Bare," one word sentence is used to describe her life.

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Mother to Son

by Langston Hughes

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.

Literary Analysis

This poem is based on the idea of hope and encouragement to move forward in life, despite all difficulties, and no matter how tough life may become. It is also the demonstration of the love a mother has for her son. Behind this love, the poet emphasizes the idea of never giving up in any situation.

The speaker in this poem is a mother who gives advice to her beloved son, who may also be seen to represent the younger generation. Since the mother has successfully faced the challenges of life, she wishes her son to be courageous and bold in the face of these challenges and to also succeed in life. The poem is grounded in the memories and experiences of a mother. The tone of the poem is didactic, encouraging, and hopeful.

The poet opens this poem by presenting a comparison between the mother’s life and a treacherous staircase in order to show that her life has not been easy and perfect. The mother begins by addressing her son: “Well, son, I’ll tell you: / Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Her life was full of challenges and difficulties, such as, “It’s had tacks in it,/And splinters.” The use of extended metaphor comparing the mother’s life to a staircase continues throughout the poem, with the repetition of the line, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”

The mother seems to have been born in poverty, as the images reveal: “And boards torn up,/And places with no carpet on the floor.” This indicates that she experienced hazardous circumstances, which somehow she needed to step over to arrive where she stands now. Then, she goes on to say, “But all the time /I’se been a-climbin’ on” demonstrating that, despite her hardships and troubles, she kept moving on and climbing the staircase. She goes on to say that she did this “…sometimes goin’ in the dark,” by which she means the low moments of her life where there has “been no light.” The use of local vernacular she uses to give advice to her son— “So boy, don’t you turn back —is a reflection of the love the mother has for her son. Finally, she motivates him to never feel dejected due to any failures in life. She encourages him to move on just like she did, despite all difficulties.

Hughes alludes to the Biblical imagery of Jacob’s Ladder by using the extended metaphor of a staircase. In addition, imagery of dark and light evokes periods of uncertainty in his mother’s life, which Hughes’s has reclaimed as a lesson for him in his own life.

Structural Analysis

This is a short free verse poem containing twenty lines, which are without any regular rhythm or formal rhyme scheme. There are a few instances of rhyme in the poem, especially the connection between “stair” in the second line and “bare” in the seventh line. The poem is written in irregular metrical pattern, though some follow trochaic meter as in “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

The language is colloquial, such as “Cause you find it’s kinder hard.” The vernacular language gives the impression that the woman is less educated and probably from the countryside. Alliteration is sparingly used in the poem such as the “d” and “s” sounds, as in Don’t you set down on the steps.” The poet has used device of anaphora in that “And” is used at the beginning of many of the lines. In order to emphasize the idea that the mother’s life was not ideal and perfect like a crystal stair, a line is repeated twice: Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.” Enjambment is used throughout poem as, “And splinters,/ And boards torn up.” The language is unpretentious and informal.

Guidance for Usage of Quotes

The poem is a monologue that conveys the idea of encouragement and hope. The poem is based on the theme of advice given by a mother to her son. Her life is full of challenges. She tells her son that she faced these challenges and hardships, but she never gave up and continued her journey with patience and resilience. Mothers can encourage their sons with quotes from the poem, such as:

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters.

Also, they can use the following quote to motivate sons to rise again after failure and face the challenges of life confidently:

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.

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