“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes Meaning

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Langston Hughes published this narrative poem in 1922 in a magazine promoting Civil rights in American society. In this article, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes meaning you will discover how a mother prepares her son for the upcoming challenges of life, with a special focus on the Black community. The poem brilliantly describes the troubles and problems black people face in a society considered aliens. The poem begins where a black mother addresses her son and tells him that her life was so hard. To make her son understand the point, she compares her life with a set of crystal stairs full of splinters and tacks. Also, the stairs had spots that added more to her misery.

 As the poem continues, she explains that she had some good times. There was a time when life offered him some rest from the struggle she had been enduring. However, she never gave up; she tried climbing even during the worst of times. Therefore, she advises her son that he should never give up. She understands that life would offer the same obstacles to her son’s way, but she wants him to overcome these difficulties while displaying great courage. Toward the end, she refers to her struggling life once again; she reinforces the same idea that she is still climbing, but she is hopeful.

Major Themes in “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes

The poem displays various universal themes such as racism, hardships, adaptive nature of humanity. Keeping a black mother in the center, the writer sheds light on the heart-wrenching life of the blacks. Using various techniques, he explains that the dark era of their lives is still not over. Although they have paid a higher price, they have to fight for equal rights. The mother in the poem is mature enough to understand that her son is also going to experience the bitter realities of the racist world.

Therefore, she boosts his courage with a pack of fruitful advice and examples. She presents her life as an example and understands that he needs to be hopeful and patient no matter how hard life becomes. Perhaps she believes that her people will enjoy the bliss of life one day. The writer brilliantly exposes the world’s reality of how influential people exercise their will in the world. The unequal distribution of power brings us various disasters. But the central message of the poem minimizes the pain of these people. He wonders how the blacks are hopeful even after facing hatred and biased treatment of the world.

Analysis of Techniques Used in “Mother to Son”

Langston Hughes has given this poem a maximum depth by implying many techniques. Literary and poetic techniques allow him to portray his feelings and ideas regarding his community. He has cleverly used some symbols to highlight the struggle of the blacks, such as “crystal stairs,” which symbolizes the nature of problems they face. Similarly, splinters, torn-ups, landing, and climbing signify the trials they pass. Hughes’ powerful display of images in the poem has made it easy for the readers to hit the poem’s core. Using his poetic intellect, he has explained how these people try to pass their painful stories to the next generation.

The narration makes it easy for the readers to understand how their generations have been targeted, and unfortunately, they continue to receive the same treatment. But, the writer praises their struggle; he likes how these people carry a firm belief that one day a bright light will replace darkness and gain the fruits of their hard work. Moreover, Mother to Son unfolds the use of situational irony. The mother in the poem is in pain, yet she tries to give her son confidence. She is trying to teach him the precious lessons that will help him move forward and will give him strength during his weak moments.

I hope this article, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes Meaning, helped you dig out the actual meaning of the poem. Please share your feedback in the comment section. 

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