Mother To Son Essay example
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On the road of life, many trials arise that one must overcome to make his or her life feel complete. 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 (Barksdale 3).
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 (Barksdale 3). 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,…show more content…
Although these are “homely” things someone may face on a staircase, they actually mean things that she has encountered in her life (Emanuel 148). She says that she reaches landings, which means that she has come up on place where she could rest. 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. The metaphors in this poem show a conflict in the mother’s life and makes the poem seem complete.
The third quality that Langston Hughes uses in his poem is the tone of the speaker. When she explains to him 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 in compassionate (Hughes 232). 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. All she wants for her son is for him to keep climbing, and never give up. Winslow believes that this “enduring exuberance” shows her youthful spirit towards life (262). She wants this all because “[she is] still goin’, honey, / [she is] still climbin’, / and life for [her] ain’t
The simple, straightforward title of the poem “Mother to Son,” by the African-American poet Langston Hughes (1902-1967), clearly identifies both the speaker of the work and the person to whom her words are addressed. The very first line of the poem is typical of the rest of the work in its use of phrasing that is colloquial—that is, in this case, phrasing that implies one person speaking to another. Yet the phrasing is also colloquial in the sense that it is ordinary, unpretentious, and informal. By beginning with the word “Well,” the mother sounds as if she is responding to a question from her son, while the use of the generic word “son” sounds (ironically) more affectionate than if she had used the son’s proper name. By using the word “son,” the mother also makes their relationship seem universal and archetypal—as if this might be any mother speaking to any son. (The effect would be significantly different, for instance, if the poem had begun “Well, Richard,” or “Well, Langston.”) As presently written, the opening line implies the close, loving relationship between almost any parent and his or her child.
The second line continues the emphasis on colloquial phrasing. The word “ain’t,” for instance, is clearly informal and unpretentious, implying either that the speaker has not been educated in a conventional way or that she is unconcerned with the niceties of formal education. The fact that the second line is almost twice as long as the first (nine syllables versus five) suggests that the poem will not have a rigid, prepackaged formal structure, and indeed a glance at the shape of the poem as it moves down the page suggests that it follows no preplanned, predictable scheme, either in meter or in rhyme. Part of Hughes’s talent as a poet involves his ability to mimic the rhythms and diction of actual speech, and clearly that talent is on display in this particular poem.
The phrase “crystal stair” is intriguing. It can be found in a variety of texts from the nineteenth century, some religious and some secular, and it is often used to suggest the glorious connection or procession from earth to heaven. A “crystal” stair implies a stairway that is special, unusual, beautiful, finely wrought, and symbolic of wealth. However, the speaker’s stair, or movement through life, has been associated with few of these traits. Instead, it has been actually or potentially painful, brimming with “tacks,” “splinters,” and “boards torn up” (3-5)—details suggesting that the speaker’s social position also places her at or near the bottom of the economic ladder. The places she has inhabited, or where she has worked, have not been beautiful or associated with wealth or comfort (“no carpet on the floor” ). Instead, they have been plain and “Bare,” an adjective...
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