Summary / Analysis
Langston Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son”, is narrative poem about a mother trying to inspire her son. She tells her son, life has not been easy for her. She relates her progression in life to climbing stairs. The crystal stairs are symbolic of a smooth and easy path to glory. Yet, Mother’s path has tacks in it, splinters, torn up boards and other hardships. Sometimes, she even has to go in unknown territory with no guidance (“in the dark / Where there ain’t been no light”). She says her son can not set down on the steps and give up, cause life won’t be any easier (“you’ll find it’s kinder hard”). She concludes her son must carry himself forward, because she is still carrying on upwards, even though her life has not been easy. This poem catches the essence of how our mothers coach us by leading through example, essentially stating: “Look, I’m doing it, so you can do it.” This poem is the grown up version of mom eating food first, so you will follow her steps. It is incredibly endearing and the accent Hughes adds helps to make the poem feel more authentic.