How Does Langston Hughes Use The Extended Metaphor In 'Mother To Son'

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The poem Mother to Son, by American author Langston Hughes, follows a conversation between a mother and her son about a very important topic: Life and how to survive it. This poem, while only a short and concise 20 lines, holds a very powerful lesson to those who read it. This lesson is hidden in an extended metaphor about stairs, and is clear to those who care to peer into the true meaning. The theme of this poem is that it is best to listen to people who have already been through hardships, for these people know best how to get through them.
Langston Hughes’ choice to write this poem using the vernacular of an older, seemingly uneducated, African American mother is the strongest stylistic choice in this piece of work, as it helps prove that those who have overcome hard times know how to prosper from them. “Don’t you set down on the steps ‘Cause you find it kinder hard.” (Hughes 15-16). This quote best exemplifies the specific vernacular found inside Mother to Son, as seen in the case of using “set” instead of the grammatically correct word “sit,” or “kinder” in place of “kind of.”
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In Mother to Son, author Langston Hughes proves this in a multitude of ways. The extended metaphor throughout the poem about crystal stairs, which represent a perfect life, and bare stairs, which represent a life bare of education, privilege, and fortune, is the first layer to understand when delving into the poem. This metaphor also creates images of these figurative stairs and their real life counterparts, which demonstrate the dismal conditions the speaker grew up in. The speaker and her tone drive the moral home. This mother has not had an amazing life, the stairs of life climbed were not the perfect crystal stairs, but despite all the misfortune, she was able to raise her son and bestow upon him the most important lesson of them all: How to get through
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