Mother To Son Analysis | Summary, Themes, Lines, Literary Devices of Mother To Son Analysis

Mother To Son Analysis: Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. “Mother to Son” is a 1922 poem written by Langston Hughes. The poem follows a mother speaking to her son about her life, which she says, “ain’t be no crystal stair.” She first describes the struggles she faced and then urged him to continue moving forward. It was referenced by Martin Luther King Jr. several times in his speeches during the civil rights movement and has been analyzed by several critics, notably his style and representation of the mother’s struggle.

Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.

Summary on Mother To Son Analysis

Ok, son, listen up: My life hasn’t been an easy climb up a set of crystal stairs. The stairs I had to climb were full of tacks and splinters. The steps were falling apart, and there were spots no longer covered by carpet. But I have been climbing the whole time. I have reached landings; I have turned corners. I kept climbing up even when it was dark; there were no lights to guide me. So, son, you can’t turn back. Don’t sit down on the steps because it turns out to be pretty hard going. Don’t fall now because I am still going. I am still climbing; my life hasn’t been an easy climb of crystal stairs.

Mother To Son Analysis Themes

“Mother to Son” is a dramatic monologue about surviving in the face of American racism. The speaker gives her son advice about how to improve his lot in a racist society through an extended metaphor about climbing a set of stairs. While white people can climb up a “crystal stair”, meaning they enjoy a smooth and easy ascent, black people are forced to take a dangerous and dark staircase. In this way, the speaker makes it much more difficult for black people to succeed in society. Yet, she suggests that they can overcome many obstacles through perseverance and mutual support.

The speaker of “Mother to son” distinguishes between two different kinds of staircases – and, by extension, between two different kinds of paths through life. On the one hand, there’s the staircase that she’s had to climb, which is dangerous and falling apart, with loose tacks and splinters. Sometimes the staircase has even been “dark”. On the other hand, there’s a “crystal stair”. Crystals are smooth, shiny and beautiful; they suggest glamour and wealth.

In other words, the “crystal stair” is basically the opposite of the staircase the speaker has had to climb. Where she has had to struggle to improve her life, the people who climb the “crystal stair” have no trouble getting where they want to go. These two staircases aren’t meant to be taken literally: rather, they’re part of an extended metaphor for the unequal opportunities and challenges that black face in their lives.

Where white people have an easier and smoother course towards realizing their dreams, the poem argues, black people like the speaker and her son have to fight through difficult, dangerous challenges just to reach the same level. The speaker is realistic and straightforward about these difficulties; she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Despite everything, she believes that she and her son can still lead successful lives, despite the obstacles in her way. And she offers the poem to her son as encouragement: she wants him to follow her example, to be as determined as she’s been.

Mother To Son Analysis Literary Devices

The presence of anaphora, dialect and imagery has been evident. Usage of a shortened version of words like “reachin'” instead of reaching and “landin’s” instead of landings make the verses more song-like. Also, the word “staircase”, for example, is used to describe the shortcomings of life.

Mother To Son Analysis Summary

Analysis of Mother to Son Poem Lines

Lines 1-7

The poem is the advice of a mother to a son with respect to the vicissitudes of life. The shortcomings of life are compared to the steps of a staircase. It is a free verse poem with word choices lyrical in nature. It highlights the importance of experience and determination in life. Life is a book and every step we take in it opens a new page for us. The mother narrates her own life that hasn’t been very easy. It has been full of obstacles (“tacks and splinters”). It is difficult to be in her shoes but not impossible. The lack of boards in the staircase symbolizes the lack of support in her difficult endeavours. The lack of carpet represents the lack of optimum, ideal, utopic conditions in her own life and the presence of pure struggle and hardships to overcome the shortcomings of life.

Lines 8-13

Life is a race but not necessarily a straight one of hundred metres. It is often a steeplechase with successive hurdles and sharp turns. The mother advises her son that she was never afraid of such obstacles or turns and faced problems in her life with sheer determination. The different phases of life have been indicated by the landings on the staircase. Often, she had to walk the dark corridors or take the road not taken or traversed by others. Still, nothing held her back. True darkness is not the absence of light. It is the conviction that light will never return again.

Lines 14-20

Lastly, the mother tells her son to not give up in life. Also, there is no turning back or falling down. Thus, she advises him to be decisive in his actions and fulfil his goal with sheer determination. She asks her to keep fighting the battlefields of life. She has been “still climbing” through the hardships of her life. Success doesn’t always come roaring in life. Sometimes at the end of the day, it just smiles and says, “I’ll try again tomorrow.”

Mother To Son Analysis Themes

Similar Poetry of Mother To Son Analysis

Other similar poems include ‘Dreams’, ‘I, Too Sing, America’ and ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’. “Dreams” by Langston Hughes is a two-stanza poem with an ABCB rhyme scheme that highlights the value of “dreams” by presenting two situations that revolve around the loss of those “dreams.” The first stanza reflects on the possible death of dreams in an “if” scenario, which indicates “dreams” do not have to “die” since they can be nurtured. In fact, to Hughes, they should be nurtured if a person desires to “fly” above the common aspects of life to something more adventurous and breath-taking. However, the second stanza references a more certain turn that “dreams” will take, in regard to “when dreams go.”

In this wording, there is no choice in the matter since “dreams” will “go,” no matter what a person does, but the harshness of life once that departure occurs makes “holding fast to” them advisable. “Dreams” is an early poem by American poet Langston Hughes, one of the leading figures of the 1920s arts and literary movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Originally published in the magazine The World Tomorrow in 1923, it explores themes that would echo throughout Hughes’s work: the sustaining power of dreams (especially in the face of difficult realities) and the problems that arise when dreams are thwarted or abandoned. Its two short stanzas deliver an urgent warning never to let dreams die.

“I, Too Sing, America” is a poem by Langston Hughes. First published in 1926, during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, the poem portrays American racism as experienced by a black man. In the poem, white people deny the speaker a literal and metaphorical seat at the table. However, the speaker asserts that he is just as much as part of America as are white people and that soon the rest of the country will be forced to acknowledge the beauty and strength of black people.

Langston Hughes was born in 1902 and died in 1967, and during the span of his lifetime, he saw America grow and evolve when it came to equal rights for minorities.  Even though slavery had been abolished years before he was born, Hughes still encountered blatant racism and oppression as a Black man.  His writings often represent this oppression, and through his poetry, he fights the majority and sings the praises of his fellow African Americans.  Fortunately, Hughes lived long enough to see the Civil Rights Act of 1964 become law; however, the struggles of African Americans and other minority groups continue to exist in the United States today.

Langston Hughes famously wrote ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ when he was only seventeen years old. He was on a train crossing the Mississippi River on the way to see his father in Mexico. Since then, the poem has become one of his best-known and most commonly quoted. It was provided inspiration for fellow poets and artists who have also used the image of the river to depict Black perseverance and strength. The poem was written by Langston Hughes, a great American poet, social activist, and playwright. ‘The Negro Speaks of Rivers’ is one of the famous free verse poems about African people and their life before and after leaving their land. It was first published in 1921 in the journal The Crisis. The poem presents the voice and memory of the Africans who were forced into slavery, including the time when Abraham Lincoln fought to abolish it. The speaker speaks from the depth of his heart and provides glimpses of his heritage, memories attached with ancient rivers in Africa. Pride, heritage, and nature are the major themes of this poem.

The poet talks about the origin and historical existence of the African race. By using the reference of rivers, he says that the African race is deeply attached to the knowledge that is as old as the ancient rivers. Also, the mood of the poem suggests that the speaker takes pride in his colour, ancient culture, and race. Our speaker introduces himself in the first line by telling us that he has known rivers and that his soul has come to be as deep as a river. Then he explains to us just how that transformation took place. He must be one ancient man because he has been around for thousands of years. He used to go swimming in the Euphrates River when Earth was just a baby. He lived near the Congo River in central Africa. He helped to build the pyramids in Egypt almost four thousand years ago. He heard the Mississippi River sing when President Abraham Lincoln took a boat ride down to New Orleans. He tells us again that he has known lots of ancient, dusky rivers and that his soul has become as deep as these rivers.

The poem “Mother to Son” can also be compared to the poem “Harlem (A Dream Deferred)” by Langston Hughes. The comparison between the two poems is best analyzed through the form and meaning of the pieces. “Mother to Son” and “Harlem (A Dream Deferred)”, both written by the profound poet Langston Hughes, depicts many similarities and differences between the poems. Between these two poems, the reader can identify his flow of writing through analyzing the form and meaning of each line. Form and meaning are what readers need to analyze to understand the poem that they are evaluating. In “Mother to Son”, his form of writing that is used frequently is free verse. There is no set “form”, but he gets his point across in a very dramatic way. The poem is told by a mother who is trying to let her son know that in her life, she too has gone through many frustrations, just like what her son is going through.

The tone of this poem is very dramatic and tense because she illustrates the hardships that she had to go through in order to get where she is today. She explains that the hardships that she has gone through in her life have helped her become the person that she has come to be. Instead of Hughes being ironic like he does in some of his poems, he is giving the reader true background on the mother’s life. By introducing the background, it helps get his point across to the reader in a very effective way. In this poem, there are many keywords that help portray the struggles that the mother is trying to express to her son.