Mother to Son

By: Langston Hughes

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.

Situation of Poem

The speaker of this poem is a mother talking to her son about how hard life has been for her. She uses this message has a life lecture for her son. Her son is maybe going through a tough time and the mother is giving this lecture to help encourage her son to keep going in life and to not let what he's going through knock him down. This poem expresses a caring emotion from a mother to her son. The speaker's attitude towards the subject of the poem is motherly and caring. the tone of voice that seems to be appropriate for reading this poem aloud is a soft, caring, sympathetic tone. Phrases such as "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair", "I'se been a-climbin' on", " "don't you set down on the steps", give me a clue of a wiser, older, African-American speaking to her son with a southern accent.

Structure of Poem

This poem has 20 lines containing a pattern of medium to long length. The form of the poem relates to it's content by portraying how an older, motherly, African-American woman would talk during slavery times. The poet, Langston Hughes maybe chose this form for his poem so readers could feel as if they are actually listening to the woman speak. Also so readers could have an idea and get a clue of what point in time this poem is set in.

Language of Poem

"Mother to Son" has a simple word choice. This poem contains a historical allusion to the time of slavery and what diction any African-American would use when talking in general. This poem contains multiple metaphors that compare the hardships of life to the poor, slave homes that were not constructed in a safely manner. These metaphors add to the meaning of the poem by using a southern language. This language causes readers to have a connection with the setting of the poem.

Musical Devices

"Mother to Son" has an irregular rhyme scheme. This is an Iambic poem with pentameter. This poem has a unique sound effect pattern. Lines 1-6 contain multiple words that use the letter "t". Line 7 is not associated with any pattern. Line 8 contains "t" sounds. Lines 9-11 contain multiple words that use the letter "n". Line 12 is a mixture of both "t" and "n" sounding words. Lines 13-16 again contain words that use the letter "t". Lines 17-19 again contain words that use the letter "n". Line 20 (last line) is like line 12, containing a mixture of both "t" and "n" sounds.

Literal Interpretation of Poem

In "Mother to Son", the speaker is trying to get readers to understand an encouraging message from a mother to her child. In this case, a mother's son. This poem explains that our own parents have gone through the exact same things that we are currently going through. Even though they may have grown up in a different time period, they know what we are going through. If they were able to survive life's struggles, so can we.