Mother to Son Summary & Analysis (Langston Hughes)

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About the Poem- Mother to Son

Poem TitleMother to Son
AuthorLangston Hughes
FormFree verse
Published year1922 as part of the collection “The Weary Blues”
ThemePerseverance, resilience, and the African-American experience
CharactersMother and son
SpeakerA mother speaking to her son
ToneInspirational, encouraging, and instructive
StructureFree verse poem with irregular rhyme scheme
LanguageUses metaphorical and colloquial language
SymbolsCrystal stair, splinters, bare
Literary devicesMetaphor, simile, repetition

Themes of Mother to Son 

Mother to Son Summary & Analysis

Stanza 1

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-


Summary: In the first stanza, the mother begins by comparing her life to a “crystal stair,” highlighting that her journey has not been easy or glamorous. Life has not been a smooth and transparent staircase; instead, it has been filled with obstacles and challenges. This sets the tone for the poem’s theme of overcoming difficulties.

Stanza 2

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.

Summary: The second stanza emphasizes how the mother has encountered dark and challenging moments in her life. She uses the metaphor of going in the dark, where there is no light. This symbolizes facing uncertainty, hardship, and difficult times. Despite these struggles, she has kept moving forward, which is a lesson she wishes to impart to her son.

Stanza 3

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.

Summary: In the third stanza, the mother advises her son not to give up or “set down on the steps” because he finds it tough. She encourages him to keep climbing, even when the path becomes hard and steep. The staircase represents the journey of life, and the mother’s advice is to keep making progress, no matter how difficult the circumstances may be.

FAQs from Mother to Son

What is the meaning behind Mother to Son?

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes teaches us to persevere through life’s challenges, no matter how hard it gets.

What is the historical context of Mother to Son by Langston Hughes?

The poem “Mother to Son” was written during the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great artistic and cultural flourishing for African Americans in the United States. The poem reflects the challenges and resilience of Black Americans during this time.

What does the crystal stair symbolize in Mother to Son?

The crystal stair in the poem symbolizes an easy and privileged life.

What are the struggles the mother has seen in life in the poem Mother to Son?

The mother has faced many challenges in life, including poverty, hardship, and discrimination.

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