In the poem "Mother to Son" what is NOT being said as well as what is being said?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes, what is not being said holds as much significance as what the mother does tell the son.

What the mother does say:

  1. Her own life has had its share of difficulties and rough times.
  2. She has kept going no matter the cost or hardship.
  3. She tells the son that he too must keep going.

What the mother does not say:

  1. She does not make up false platitudes.  For example, she does not tell her son that 'everything will work out just fine.'
  2. She does not make excuses for why things have been so difficult for her.
  3. She does not tell her son 'I love you.' 

At the core of this message from "Mother to Son" is the undeniable strength and perseverance of the mother.  She does not try to sugar-coat any of the difficulties that she has experienced or the hardships that he may face in the future.  She tells it like it is!  She does not coddle him in the slightest.  Even though the mother does not tell the son that she loves him in the the poem, her message to him clearly reveals that she cares about him deeply.  She encourages him not to "turn back" or "sit down", but to keep going.  If she can do it, he can too.

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