Analysis Essay: Mother to Son By Langston Hughes
Every mother wants to see their child succeed in life. Through the good times and challenging times, each generation will experience both at some point. The person you mature to be will determine if you kept pushing through those hard times so you can enjoy the good times. In the poem “ Mother to Son”, by Langston Hughes, the speaker of the poem is a mother who is giving her son advice on life. The mother has lived difficult life, but she expresses to her son “Don’t you set down on the steps/Cause you finds it’s kinder hard” (Lines 14-15), her advice is to carry on. As she uses her own life and its obstacles as a staircase of events the poet uses literary devices like imagery, figurative language, and consonance to convey the tone of the mother’s advice to her son.
The image of a staircase begins when the poet, Langston Hughes uses an extended metaphor, a staircase, to explain the life the mother had endured. The mother describes her life as a “crystal stair” by saying “ Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” (line 2). Hughes is painting an image that life for the mother hasn’t been easy as it has been for others who climb a “ Crystal stair,” she has had to work very hard to get where she is. To highlight the hardship the mother had to go through, the poet uses imagery to put into words the staircase she had to climb; “Its had tacks in it/ And Splinters/ And boards torn up/ And places with no carpet on the floor-Bare” (Lines 3-7). The use of words “tacks” and “splinters” indicate the mother’s pain and suffering she has encountered over the years. When she says “ Boards tore up” and “ places with no carpet on the floor” she is telling her son how she has lived very poorly and warning him of the harmful situations that can occur in life. The mother had to go through great lengths to get where she is, every step wasn’t easy but the mother continues climbing.
Throughout the poem, Hughes explores the life and resilience of the mother’s tone as persistent and tough. He continues to use figurative language as a metaphor, as the mother continues telling her son about the challenges she faced in life, she experienced more hardship on the way than she had good, “And sometimes going in the dark/Where there ain't been no light" (line 11-12) The darkness represents hopelessness. When the speaker says there "ain't been no light", she suggests that there is no happy, bright spot in her life to bring her joy during that time in her life. Yet the through it all the mother keeps living, keep going and not giving up; “ I’ve been a climbin on/ And reachin landins’/And turnin corners.” (Lines 8-10.) This is where Hughes uses the literary device consonance, “ climbin, reachin, landin, and turnin,” in the mother’s life. As Hughes employs these literary devices to show the courage and optimism of the mother, the mother is letting her son know to keep going and not turn back; “So boy, don’t your turn back/Don’t you set down on the steps.” (Lines 13-14).
The message Langston Hughes wanted his readers to take from the poem “ Mother to Son” is to never give up, but to keep going forward and not look back, expect nothing in life to be handed to you. The mother explains nothing in her life was easy, she had to work through countless obstacles and challenges. “ Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” this tells her son and the readers that her life hasn’t been easy but despite all her obstacles the mother pushed through. Hughes tells the story of the mother’s life using the metaphor of a staircase and each obstacle is expressed using different literacy devices. Each one identifies the struggle the mother faces during her life and gives an image for the readers to understand the pain and suffering she endured. Though it teaches us that no matter how hard life gets, you should always strive for a better one.