“Mother to Son” The speaker of the poem “Mother to Son,” by Langston Hughes is a mother who is giving advice to her son. Her life has been difficult and hard at times. As readers, we know this because the speaker talks about how life is a staircase and her staircase has had “tacks and splinters in it” (line 3-4). This means that her life has not been perfect and she had many challenges to deal with. Perhaps she was born into poverty, because the images in her poem reveal a ragged, old staircase, like you might find in a decrepit, old building.
Further, the speaker’s accent reveals that the speaker was not well-educated when she was younger, such as when she says “I’se been a-climbin’ on” (line 9) which is not proper English. Since she most likely did not have a strong education growing up, she probably did not have many opportunities in life, and may have been stuck in a cycle of poverty. Finally, I believe the speaker of this poem is African American woman, because the poet, Langston Hughes, often writes from an African American perspective to reveal the struggles and also achievements of African Americans during the early 1900’s.
Moreover, the speaker in “Mother to Son” has a strong and determined, but also caring personality. As readers, we see this because the speaker works relentlessly to climb the difficult stairs, but she also displays deep care for her son and doesn’t want him to give up. We see her perseverance when the woman says she keeps “climbing” stairs, even though she has often had to go into the “dark” (line 12) parts of the stairs that are “torn up” (line 5). This represents that she has often had struggles and moments of uncertainty in her life, yet she has always pushed through.
This imagery of the broken stairs really pushes the idea that her life has had numerous struggles that she has had to overcome, and therefore she has a very courageous and strong willpower. Finally, she exemplifies her concern for her son by calling him “honey” and pushing him to never give up. She clearly is passionate about him being able to succeed in life, and wanting the best for him. The speaker’s message to readers in “Mother to Son” is that life can be difficult, but you have to keep trying despite these difficulties.
I believe this message is directed towards people who are experiencing hardships and poverty, because the speaker is directing her conversation to her “son,” who does not have a life that is like “crystal stairs” (line 2). The crystal stairs in the poem represents a wealthy and easy life, as wealthy people have not probably had the same difficulties in life. Her message of not giving up is evident throughout the poem as she demands her son to not give up. She says, “So boy, don’t you turn back, don’t you set down on the steps, cause you finds it’s kinder hard” (lines 14-16).
As readers, we know the message for us is that you can’t give up, even though you will face challenges—just like you have to keep going on a “staircase” even though the staircase has many obstacles on it. She clearly believes that we need to be fighters in our lives, as life will often be difficult. More importantly, I believe this message was also meant towards African Americans in the early 1900’s (when Langston Hughes was writing poetry), to remind them to never give up on fighting for equal rights, even though it is hard.