"Mother to Son"
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor--
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now--
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
Metaphor and Interpretation
In "Mother to Son" Hughes uses a metaphor to describe the life of the mother. In this case, it is an extended metaphor that compares the mother's life to a staircase. Each step symbolizes a part of her life that she had to endure. This metaphor is used throughout the poem to show the meaning of the poem.
The first seven lines of the poem describe how the mother's life wasn't easy, and how she has faced many hardships and obstacles. The lines, "It's had tacks in it, And splinters" refers to the pain she suffered in her life. Tacks and splinters are not life threatening but they do hurt. The next line is, "And boards torn up" which indicates a more dangerous situations than the previous lines. Missing boards symbolizes the great lengths the mother had to go through in order to get to where she is today. Every step along the way is not easy, but the mother perseveres.
Lines 9-13 are about how the mother had persisted through everything to be where she is. She's reached goals and been to places no one else has, and she just kept going and never gave up. The final lines of the poem is the mother addressing her son, and telling him not to sit down or fall because life is hard. She infers that she is still going, and that he shoould never give up because she didn't. People want them (Blacks) to give up, yet she tells him no to. Wherever the stair case leads, the son keep fighting until the end.
"I, Too, Sing America"
This poem was previously looked at when the american identity theme was discussed. This poem was about the speaker not being treated equally, but he knows that he will be soon. He knows that the day whites and blacks are treated the same will happen.
One metaphor used in this poem is the table where the family eats dinner. In the old days people always ate dinner in the dining room. When company came over blacks were relegated to the kitchen. The dinner table symbolizes status, opportunity, and power which African Americans did not have. The kitchen then represents the segregation and inequality during that time. When the day come where all Americans of all races can sit at a table come, that will be true equality (Constantakis 104).