Gabriela Mistral’s poem “Fear” and Langston Hughes’s poem “Mother to Son” are both pleas from parents who have specific ideas about their children’s lives, but these ideas are very different. Let’s look at both poems to get you started on this assignment.
In “Fear,” a mother nearly panics about the possibility of losing her daughter. She does not want people, some vague “they,” to turn her little girl into a swallow or a princess or a queen. If that were to happen, her daughter would fly away from her and become distant and unreachable. Notice that the speaker does not address her daughter or anyone in particular. She is speaking out of her fear and her desire to keep her child with her always. There is a positive side to this. The speaker does not want her daughter to fall into the ambitions of the world and lose her roots and relationships. But on the other hand, with this kind of fear, a mother could hold her daughter back from reaching her true potential.
In “Mother to Son,” the speaker addresses her son directly, and she wants him to keep on climbing the stairs of life and making something better of himself. These stairs are not easy. They are filled with tacks and splinters and darkness. But the mother has kept on climbing, and she tells her son to do the same, not to turn back or sit down or fall. Even though climbing is hard, the son must follow his mother and go on to a better life. The mother and son must both seek more than they have, no matter how difficult that may be.