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Mother to Son

Updated November 1, 2018

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Mother to Son essay

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Hughess poem, Mother to Son, depicts a black mother advising her son to remain hopeful despite all the hardships one encounters in life.

The mother informs her son that life has not always been easy for her, yet she is still carrying on. The poem communicates the message of staying hopeful despite the obstacles one encounters throughout life. Hughes employs the use of metaphors, such as a crystal stair, color imagery, such as a contrast between light and dark, and dialect to express this idea. The mother in the poem compares her life to a stair and states that it aint been no crystal stair. In other words, she is telling her son that life has not always been easy and pleasant. Life is not the ideal fantasy that many conceive it to be.

The mother continues to say that It has had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor. These splinters and tacks are metaphors for the obstacles one encounters throughout life. These splinters and tacks represent the harsh reality of life, as opposed to the ideal fantasy life. Through the use of the mother, Hughes uses a stair as a metaphor for life in order to communicate this message. In spite of these hindrances, the mother has managed to overcome them.

She has been a climbin on, and reachin landins, and turnin corners. She still struggles onward, despite what may have been the bleakest moments of her life, where there seemed to be no hope; sometimes goin in the dark where there aint been no light. This contrasting color imagery of dark and light emphasizes the idea that its always dark before the dawn and bad days precede better ones and just when it seems as if there is no relief in sight, something occurs to alleviate your burdens. The mother then advises her son not to give up and let life get him down just because there are a few struggles in life. She tells him not to turn back and set down on the steps cause you finds its kinder hard.

She encourages her son to continue on striving to overcome these obstacles. She provides him with hope by stating that shes still going, honey, shes still climbin. If she can manage to make it this far in life regardless of all the difficulties, then it is possible for her son to make it through also. The mother in Mother to Son is most likely black. She speaks in a dialect that is usually associated with the stereotypical way in which black individuals speak. Therefore, it is possible that the hardships she has experienced in life deal with racism, discrimination, and slavery.

Her hardships are not unique; they are the hardships of her entire race. The message that she is attempting to pass along to her son is also a message to all blacks. Through the mother, Hughes passes on a message to all blacks. He tells them not to lose hope and to keep on going no matter how hard life may seem. He reminds them that life is not easy and that it contains many obstacles, but whatever they may encounter, they will always be able to overcome it.

He tells them that they are not alone in their struggle; it is shared by all of them as a whole. Hughes voices this message through the mother in his poem to pass this message along to the rest of the black community. He provides them with words of encouragement and hope in light of their struggles. Hughes use of metaphors, color imagery, and dialect effectively express the idea that life contains many hardships, yet one must not be disheartened by them and instead, triumph over them.


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Mother to Son. (2018, Nov 25). Retrieved from