Through his inscription of poetry, Langston Hughes depicts many uses of moods, themes and importantly his way of communicating simply through poems in a term when the art populace was in a glitch to decline. Arnold in his bibliography labels him as “perhaps the most illustrative black American writer” (Arnold R). Most of his work depicts his starring role as an orator for people of color and the waged poor majority. Others would share his philosophies on the essentials of inheritance and the ancient times. Through his forthright, comprehensible writing style that easily passes over his opinions and beliefs, Hughes realizes his goal. He also contends that the American Dream is impossible to achieve for the nations marginalized, who only live to survive, and instigates for doings of public disobedience. This paper aims to explore one of the best works of Hughes, “Mother to Son.” Critically analyze the paper and discuss the literary devices that the poet used.
In the “mother to son” poem, the mom tells her son he will have to counter many challenges in his life tenure. Nevertheless, he must conquer them to survive. The mom relates the voyage of lifespan to climbing a staircase. She is bitter that her life has been made of the jagged staircase and not made of precious stone. In fact, she says that her life staircase has been bumpy with swelling fragments of woods and nails projecting out, boards wore out and in dwellings where the carpet was not available (Barksdale & Kenneth). Conversely, she has been determined and keeps mounting, through the darkness, landings, and bends despite the unfavorable conditions. She would further encourage the son to follower her tracks, keep his head up and never look back and never say enough is enough because he finds the voyage onerous. Surprisingly she is strong and moving forward despite the hard challenges life has thrown at her is where she wants the son to get motivation from and push through life no matter what he experiences (Gates et al.).
This poem revolves around the notion of reassurance and anticipation to move onward with life no matter how hard the going is. It also depicts how much the mother loves his son. Though this love is not well exposed, in the poem stresses the notion of not letting any situation get better of one’s determination. The son in this poem is the recipient of advice from her lovely mother; the son also seems to stand for the new generation. Since the mother has efficaciously tackled these life encounters, she looks forward to her son to be courageous enough and firm to triumph life trials. Langston uses an inspiring, optimistic and moralizing tone in the poem (Abu-Lughod,).
Hughes unwraps the poem by bringing a contrast amid the mom’s life and perfidious stairs to demonstrate how her life has been complicated and not exciting. We see the mother lecturing the boy: “Well, son, I will tell you:/life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” (line 1&2). As she signals her life had been filled with trials and troubles, such include, “it’s had tacks in it. /and splinters” (line 3&4). The author use of metaphor relating the mom’s life to the stairs manifests all through the poem, with the recurrence of the line, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stairs” (line 1&2). The author emphasizes on the parallel configuration, with the “crystal stair” phrase as the poem instigates and at the end, to depict a sense of accomplishment to the circumstantial tale and stress the extended metaphor that describes life as stairs (Langston). The author still uses repetition “I’se still goin’,” “I’se still climbing” (9&18), also reckoning extra stress on the mom’s tussles and exhaustion.
We learn from the mother that to give up is, losing hope and dying when she tells the kid, “Cause you finds it’s kinder hard” (line 16), she is trying to tell the lad not to surrender to the inducements and let his grip go. Though she had felt the same but fought through it, she understands that the decision to persist is advantageous to the person and the community at large. (Hughes). To the finishing lines, she discloses her prowess and persistence “I’se still going.’ Honey, /I’se still climbing/And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”, she remarks in (line 9, 18 & 1). All through we see her behaving like a role model that his boy can look up to and gain courage and forte into his cognizance that enables him to face the life journey conveniently.
In conclusion, we notice that the author has utilized metaphors, symbol, picture painting and parlance of an exhausted mother who loos forward for her son to maneuver through destitution of life. The refrain of the poem is willpower and the worth of know-how. The ultimate the mother delegates her son is never to let lose no matter how the going gets tough.
Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes: Volume I: 1902-1941, I, Too, Sing America. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, 2001.
Hughes, Langston. The collected poems of Langston Hughes. Vintage, 2017.
Hughes, Langston. Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. Vintage, 2011.
Gates, Henry, and Nellie Y. McKay. African American Literature. Vol. 997. New York: Norton, 1997.
Barksdale, Richard Kenneth. Langston Hughes. Amer Library Assn, 1977.
Abu-Lughod, Lila. Veiled Sentiments: Honor and poetry in a Bedouin society. Univ of California Press, 2016.