Figurative Language In Mother To Son

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“Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” (Hughes 2). This line is the most important line in the poem “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes. It is the only line that is repeated twice, almost verbatim. But life is not a stair nor is it made of crystal. The literal translation is somewhat irrelevant, as this poem almost exclusively uses figurative language and symbolism to convey its theme and its message. This poem uses imagery and symbolism to create this beautiful message that this essay hopes to examine. In lines 3 through 8, the poem speaks of obstacles in the path of the stairs. ‘Tacks, splinters, and torn boards’ are all terms used to figuratively refer to life’s troubles and things that go wrong. ‘Tacks’ and ‘splinters’ could be where one would look down to inspect a sharp pain in one’s foot. Or it could be life’s small details that impede one’s way, such as discovering a lie or being betrayed by a friend. “…boards torn up” (Hughes 5), to this author, would imply times of great hardships and uncertainty, as though one is not certain of one’s…show more content…
The landings are where one could rest for a minute before the continued upward travel. Just as life continues changing and altering as the mother speaks of “turnin’ corners” (Hughes 12). However, it is Hughes’ line 12 and 13 where the reader feels the truth behind the words: “…And sometimes goin’ in the dark where there ain’t been no light.” It has the same meaning as the aforementioned “Bare” (Hughes 7), but somehow seeing it in this aspect brings another dimension to this poem. How closely these lines resemble and complement those of Martin Luther King Jr.’s when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Sometimes one must continue on in the darkness and only hope for the light to come. But Hughes continues on by saying, “So boy, don’t you turn back” on line
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