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Discuss the theme of "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes.

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enotedude | Student, Grade 10 | Honors

Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:09 AM via web

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Discuss the theme of "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes.

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:28 PM (Answer #1)

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In my mind, the most powerful element of Hughes' poem is the theme of struggle that seems to be passed down from one generation to another.  A trademark of Hughes' poetry is that he conveyed an authentic sense of struggle in his work.  For Hughes, being Black in America was synonymous with struggle and facing challenge and adversity.  Hughes was committed to presenting this aspect of social realism in its widest form.  It is in this that I see the theme of struggle and perseverance most present in the poem.  The idea of life "ain't been no crystal stair," reinforces how the mother has faced adversity and challenge.  Her only hope is that her son "don't fall now" as he climbs the same stairs and she did and still does ("I'se still climbin'.)  There is something particular persuasive about the theme of the struggle that is passed down from generation to generation.  Hughes is not making a statement that condemns people of color to fight and to struggle, but rather is suggesting that a part of the modern condition is to face and acknowledge adversity and to not allow it to overwhelm the individual.  It becomes one of the modern testaments to seek to overcome these obstacles and relay this narrative to children, who must do the same.  I find this as one of the most powerful elements in the poem.

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