The poem, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes vividly portrays an African American mother whose strong will and determination has led her to successfully overcome many of her hardships. Hughes uses the mother to express the theme of never giving up. Another subject that is expressed throughout the poem is the oppression of black Americans. Because of Hughes significant usage of diction and imagery, he can further elaborate on the theme he has conveyed.
In this short twenty line poem, Hughes highlights the importance of staying diligent to conquer obstructions in ones life. The mothers life has had a plethora of “tacks in it/And splinters,/And boards torn up,/And places with no carpet on the floor—/Bare.”(Hughes, 3-7). One of the few possible ways these symbols could be interpreted includes the many hardships that African Americans, especially women had to endure. One can also notice that “Bare.” differs structurally from the rest of the poem. Hughes purpose for structuring “Bare.” in one line alone added great emphasis to the struggles the mother endured. Hughes includes this imagery to further support the mothers argument in wanting to better herself by continuing to climb higher and higher.
With perseverance comes the reward of having overcome the obstacles in one’s life. This aspect of the poem is displayed when the symbol of the stairs is presented. Towards the beginning of the poem, the mother states, “Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.”(2). Crystal stairs, in this poem, symbolizes a smooth, easy going life. The mother’s life reflects just the opposite. The tacks, splinters, torn up boards, and bare floors mentioned prior have taken their toll in creating a more difficult life for the mother. Hughes uses the weathered stairs to symbolize the major setbacks that African Americans had to rise above such as slavery. The mother explains that although she has accomplished much in her life, she is still climbing because racial prejudice along with many other struggles that life brings still exists. With hopes to encourage her son, she continues to advise him not to “set down on the steps./'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.”(15-16). These lines project the theme of never giving up; if you quit attempting to overcome an obstacle (or “set down on the steps”), it’ll be much harder to accomplish later because extra work must be applied to move forward.
Hard work and perseverance serves to be of great value for most people. This especially applies to those who lack an education, like the son’s mother. For example, “I'se been a-climbin' on,” is not proper English(9). This information,...