The founding fathers constructed the Constitution with the notion that “all men were created equal.” However, many minorities still struggle for the same rights and opportunities as others. “Mother to Son” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” are poems written by Langston Hughes that use symbolism to exemplify the struggles of African Americans as they attempt to persevere through adversity. Hughes utilizes the stairs in “Mother to Son” and the rivers in “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” as his main mode of symbolism. Symbolism in the two works develop the overall themes of the poems, perseverance.
In “Mother to Son,” Hughes uses a worn staircase as an extended metaphor to parallel its flaws to the struggles of African Americans. She urges her son not to give in to the pressures of society, because she has not. By stating “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair, (Mother to Son “MS” line 2) Mother is able to portray that her life is far from perfect. In fact, she describes her life as having “tacks and splinters…with boards torn up” (MS lines 3-5). These defects symbolize the problems in her life that were caused by her race, her gender, or both.
In addition, Hans J. Massaquoi’s article “The Black Family Nobody Knows,” exemplifies that the African American race is a strong and versatile race. He argues that many people tend to depict Blacks through negative stereotypes, such as “drug abuse,” “teenage pregnancy,” and “gang affiliation” (Massaquoi 28). Massaquoi’s article, much like “Mother to Son,” describes the lives of many Black families. The most relevant being Trisha, the 32 year old Mother who is working two jobs and taking care of three children; all without the help of any male counterpart. Though the bills are “getting higher,” (Massaquoi 32) and the money is “becoming lower,” (Massaquoi 32) Trisha still manages to persevere, allowing nothing to get in the way to her or her children’s future.
Aside from the mother’s race and gender, her lack of education is also a barrier that plays a key role in the hardships of her life. Hughes makes her limited education apparent in his use of vernacular. Words like “ain’t” and “I’se” (MS lines 4, 9) symbolize the fact that the mother is from a Black background and lacks sufficient education. These limitations, however, do not keep her from persevering and keeping a positive paradigm. She wants her son to realize that though they may not have the most advantageous skin color, they must strive to overcome these hardships to reach their higher potential.
In “Doing the Work: A ...