How can I compare and contrast the two poems "First Lesson" by Philip Booth and "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Comparisons: These two poems are both advice from a parent to a child.  They also have a similar message or theme:  Fortitude and endurance through life's hard times.  They both employ metaphors for life (a set of stairs to climb, an ocean to swim), are written without a lot of structured rhyme or set form boundaries, and are in first person ("I"representing the parent).  They also both contain great imagery-"It's had tacks in it/And splinters/And boards torn up", and "when fear cramps your heart...the light-year stars."

Contrasts:  "Mother to Son" is written in strong dialect whereas "First Lesson" seems to be more standardized English.  Also, the lesson on what to do when times are hard is a bit different.  In "Mother to Son" she instructs her son to push on, to keep working hard:  "Boy don't you turn back/don't you set down on the steps/don't you fall".  So her message to her son is determined perserverance.  In "First Lesson", the message is a bit different.  He instructs his daughter to, "when you tire on the long thrash/to the island, lie up, and survive".  In other words, relax, and "lie gently...and the sea will hold you".  Take it easy, take a look around you at all of the beauty to be found from just pausing and noticing it.  That will give you renewed energy.  So, one is a message of continued hard work as the key to success, the other is to take a step back and gain perspective.