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"Mother To Son" - Langston Hughes

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Pratishtha Kumar

on 10 May 2013

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Transcript of "Mother To Son" - Langston Hughes

"Mother to Son" Paraphrase "Mother To Son" - Langston Hughes Speaker of The Poem Poetic Devices In the poem, Langston Hughes uses the poetic device of an extended metaphor to emphasize the life of the mother. The extended metaphor is a device in which the author uses one analogy and links it to another by using metaphors. The metaphor compares the life of the mother to a crystal staircase. This device is effective due to the fact that the poem begins and ends with the line "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair." The significance of the device is that it can be quickly depicted that the mother has not had a good or prosperous life. The crystal staircase symbolizes wealth and prosperity which contrast with its details mentioned in the remaining poem. The extended metaphor supports that theme by the fact that life seems to be very perfect and stable but it can only come into being by surviving through obstacles of life. Another very crucial poetic device that is used within the poem is the use of allegory. Allegory is a device in which characters or analogies represent or symbolize other ideas or concepts. The poem uses allegory by using the analogy of the crystal stairs which represents the course of one's lifetime. The story of the crystal staircase and its details has a different meaning beneath the surface which is crucial for the reader to depict. the staircase is the literal meaning of the poem and the story about the mother's harsh life is the symbolic meaning. the Allegory supports the theme by showing that life is not always as easy and prosperous ans it seems. The allegory holds great importance and effectiveness towards the poem The use of the device enhances the symbolic meaning of the poem to real life.

Imagery and symbolism also plays a huge role in the initial impact of the poem. Throughout the poem, we can see many uses of imagery, especially in the details of the staircase, to clearly depict its true meaning. "It’s had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up..." shows the extreme details in the physical form of the staircase. The tacks symbolize the deep wounds, probably not fatal but still shattering and painful events, the splinters symbolize shallow wounds that are not deep but are very sensitive and always stay in the center of attention and the torn up boards represent heart breaking and life changing events in the mother's life. Imagery and symbolism contributes to the theme because it channels that reader's thoughts towards that thematic statements which is "determination to live through life without ever giving up even though there will be difficulties and challenges ahead of you." Mood or Atmosphere The mood that is developed throughout the poem is very encouraging yet original. In the beginning of the poem the mood is set by the mother informing her son how her life was challenging and difficult. But if one is determined and has solid goals they will never give up despite all hardships. Throughout the poem, the mother is trying to explain to her son to be assertive about his goals and should never appease to the challenges. Langston Hughes does an effective job in developing the mood of the poem through its metaphorical structure. The syntax of the poem develops an ambiance of perseverance. Theme The theme of the poem is the determination to live through life without ever giving up even though there will be difficulties and challenges ahead of you. The mother compares her life to a terribly ragged staircase which has “tacks” and “splinters” representing the life’s hardships and challenges. Nevertheless, she is still determined to “climbin’ on” the stairs despite the pain caused by those “tacks” and “splinters” on every step along the way. She also encourages her son to never “set down on the steps” from the uphill battle of life. This gives the image of a compassionate mother who hopes to see her son facing the obstacles in life rather than turning away from them. 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—
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. The first part of the poem refers to the mother explaining to her son that even her life has not been easy and forgiving to her either. She then explains all the different struggles that she had suffered through her life span. She enlightens that fact that she has grieved deep wounds, painful scratches, dead ends and has been faced with the cold and ruthless truth of life. But she despite all the twists and turns and even seen situations which became hopeless, she has learned not to turn her back and run. She has learned to face her issues and harsh situations with complete honesty and sheer courage and that her son must do the same. She teaches him that if you face a situation that seems “hard” you must not give up and grieve about it. The mother encourages her son with the fact that she still has not given up and is still going and he must do the same. The poem ends with a reminder to her son that life for her and for anyone will not be a perfect and steady process. The speaker is a concerned mother who is encouraging her son to face the challenges in life. By referring her life as to the opposite of a crystal stair, it establishes for the reader that her life has not been perfect or easy. Like most people, the mother has experienced hardships and challenges at times. However, she always chooses to encounter her obstacles and continue with her life instead of giving up. Also, from the mother’s description of life, the readers can tell that her son is experiencing some kind of hardships. The mother is trying to convey the meaning of perseverance to her son by telling him the story of her life. Context of The Author James Mercer Langston Hughes was an African American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Many of his works were written from the perspective of an African American. Also because of his African background, he had experienced racial prejudice, oppression, and social inequalities throughout his life time. “Mother to Son” was first published during the time of the Harlem Renaissance. Langston Hughes’s clever use of dialect portrays the woman in the poem as an uneducated but a loving African mother. Perhaps this is related to the hardships that Langston’s mother had experienced after the divorce with his father. Furthermore, the challenges Langston Hughes went through as an African American might also be another factor that contributed to the creation of this poem. Theme Relating To Life Langston Hughes uses many different techniques including mood, poetic devices, syntax, etc. to channel an overall theme to the reader. The theme of the poem can be depicted as a moral that one should have a solid understanding of their goals and abilities that will help them achieve that goal and if they face a immensely difficult challenge, they must learn not to appease to the challenge but they should always keep going. This theme is completely relevant to everyone's lives today, especially to the new generation. This poem directly informs that new generation that ther must not stop to any conditions in life, which seems to be the case for more teenagers. Teenagers today, collectively believe that life is unfair and that "they are up to no good in life", but if there is enough determination and courage they can overcome any obstacle that comes their comes their way. By: Chloe and Pratishtha K.
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