The Short Story Of Mother To Son English Literature Essay

There are so many great stories, short plays and poems to critique within this text book. The poem I chose to critique was “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. He was born James Langston Hughes on February 1st 1902, in Joplin Missouri. James was a member of an abolitionist family. Hughes attended central high school in Cleveland Ohio, but he started writing poetry when he was just in the eighth grade. During this time, he was even selected as class poet by his fellow classmates. Langston’s’ father did not think that his son could make a living on writing poems alone, so he enrolled him in an engineering program at Columbia University. Soon after, Langston withdrew from the program in order to pursue his writing career. Shortly after, Langston published his first poem which was his most famous, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Langston’s work got so much recognition it appeared in the NAACP and other publications.

He was a prolific writer and throughout his life, he wrote sixteen books of poems, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of editorial and documentary fiction and the list goes on. With all these prior knowledge of Hughes, I was able to understand his writing style a bit more clearly and grasp his theme within the poem. The theme for Hughes poem is, “Even though life has been hard for the mother and she could not see what was ahead, she still encourages her son to continue on in life because she made it through.” I love the way that Langston, so clearly depicted this theme within the poem and while you read it you can get a clear sense of exactly what is going on and you may even seem as if it were your mother speaking to you. The poem is self narrated and one can feel the love and emotion from the character. It has a strong meaning behind it because the mom cares for her child and wants him to continue on in life and to never give up. In life, mothers always wish the best for their children and never want them to fall by the way side or be led astray. Every mother wants for the child to be successful in everything that they do. It makes a mom heart broken or feels as if they failed, when their child fails.

A critic by the name of R. Baxter Miller says “In this poem the woman also represents the continuation of the race. Having given life to the next generation, the mother represents a figure of female strength, affirmation and generational continuity.” Another critic by the name of James Baldwin says, Hughes is at his best in lyrics like “Mother to Son.” The poem’s lyrics elements include a first person speaker, an expression of intense personal emotion and a belief in spiritual transcendence of time and early circumstance. Both critics are correct and within the poem you can see exactly what they are referring to. The tone of the poem is full of love but also has intense warning. The mother wants the best for her son and Hughes clearly depicts that within his poem.

The poem starts off by the mother informing the son that life for her has been hard. She states “Well son, I’ll tell you; Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had its tacks in it and splinters and boards torn up”… (Meyer 1168) The mother, just like every mom who has had a hard time in life, tells her child what she has gone through; her trials and tribulations. She goes on to describe her life by saying the boards were torn up there was no carpet in places, which symbolizes her emptiness, how tough it was and chaotic. Think of a house if you were looking to buy one and you came across a house with the boards up in the air, mold on the walls, roof is leaking, insects infested the place and there was no carpet where carpet should be. Chances are you would turn your head the other way and look for something better, for you would know this is not the way a house should be. You could never make your family stay in this house for you know that they deserve better. Just like the mom she talks about the hard parts of her life, but she is trying to do better even in spite of whatever it is that she is going through. She goes on to say that she’s been climbing and reaching landings to make it. Meaning she’s been going ahead trying to do better and make something out of her situation and she is not giving up.

Sometimes in life we have to realize that our situation is not the worst thing on earth. Even if we were going through the loss of a job, the death of a child, the loss of the house, being homeless, starvation or battling a deadly disease. We should realize that we can make it through in spite of. The mom warns her son to stay focused and persevere. She states, “don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps because you find it’s kinder hard.” (Meyer 1168) You can hear in her tone that she does not want him to ever give up or turn back while he’s experiencing his tough times.

Every mom encourages their child to go through whatever the situation may be and to never look back and say we can’t do it. Sometimes as a child, we may think the problem is just too big for us to deal with or that we can’t get through it. Sometimes we get weak and weary when our situation looks like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it looks as if we can’t go on, we have to remember the warnings that our mother’s have said to us. We have to remember when they tell us to be better than them in everything that we do. Mother’s try hard to get as far as they can in life, educationally and physically. Every mom tells their child to go higher and do more. So if your mom got a bachelor’s degree and made only 30,000 a year, she would want you to get a master’s or a PH. D and make 60,000 a year.

We have to remember when our mother’s tell us to be better than they were. An example would be if your mom use to mistreat you as a child excessively beat you or put you down every time you needed her, she would want for you to treat your children with love and compassion. Your mother would also want you to be there for your child and uplift them in times of need. Anything that your mom did that you did not agree with, you should do better when you have your children. After all the warnings and encouragement, the mother ends of the poem by saying “I’se still climbin, and life for me ain;t been no crystal stair.”(Meyer 1168) A critic by the name of Alishia talks on her belief of what the crystal stair symbolizes. She states, “I believe the “crystal stair” reference means that crystal is transparent, you can see the other side clearly through crystal. If her life was no crystal stair, she didn’t know what the outcome was going to be, she just knew that she had to keep moving and keep working for the best life she could make for herself.”

I agree with Alishia because if something is crystal you can see right through it and since the mom says life hasn’t been a crystal stair she can’t see through her life or see what is to come. When you can’t see what’s ahead of you, it makes it hard to plan out what you will do and prepare yourself accordingly. If life was a crystal stair for the mom, then should would be better prepared for everything and have time to plan out a solution to all her problems but life is never like that we never know what’s to come. All we know is that when it does come our way we must not fall back, or get scared and give up. We must keep on going and persevere to the end so we can feel good that we accomplished something and made it out on top. Not only will we get personal satisfaction, but our mother’s will be satisfied. This is what the main theme is for the poem “Mother to son.” It’s all about us making it until the end and never giving up because we can’t see what’s ahead. The poem was very meaningful and motivational and Hughes did a wonderful job displaying this within his poem. This poem encourages and uplifts the reader to keep on moving forward in life and this is a life lesson that we all should take heed to.

Work Cited Page

Meyer, Michael. Mother to Son. Eighth. Boston: 1168. Print.

Miller, R. Baxter. “Mother To son critical overview.” N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr 2010. .

Baldwin, James. “Mother To son critical overview.” N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr 2010. .

Alisha, . “American poems.” American N.p., 21 04 2009. Web. 26 Apr 2010. .

(February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967)

Born in Joplin, Missouri, James Langston Hughes was a member of an abolitionist family. He was the great-great-grandson of Charles Henry Langston, brother of John Mercer Langston, who was the first Black American to be elected to public office, in 1855. Hughes attended Central High School in Cleveland,

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