How might the life events of Langston Hughes help one understand the poem "Mother to Son"?

The life events of Langston Hughes might help one understand the poem "Mother to Son" in that Hughes himself experienced difficult personal events in his life but nevertheless continued to move forward and build his literary career. In the poem, a mother uses the metaphor of a staircase to explain the difficulties her son might encounter in life and the need to continue to climb despite them.

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In the poem "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes, the narrator, a mother admonishing her son, uses the metaphor of a staircase to symbolize the journey through life. She speaks through personal experience that life isn't always easy. Just as a wooden staircase has tacks, splinters, missing...

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In the poem "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes, the narrator, a mother admonishing her son, uses the metaphor of a staircase to symbolize the journey through life. She speaks through personal experience that life isn't always easy. Just as a wooden staircase has tacks, splinters, missing boards, and portions that are bare of carpet, life has its continual problems and setbacks. In contrast, an ideal staircase would be made of flawless crystal. She urges her son not to turn back, sit down, or fall down, but instead to keep climbing steadily, regardless of what he might encounter.

The personal life of Langston Hughes would have prepared him well for writing this poem, for he certainly grew up under difficult circumstances. His parents separated when Hughes was very young, and his father left for Mexico. Since his mother was usually traveling while looking for work, Hughes was raised by his grandmother. After his grandmother died, Hughes lived with family friends for awhile, then as a teen moved back in with his mother and her new husband.

Hughes was renowned for using his personal experiences as the basis of his writings, and this poem is no exception. We can see that Hughes went through many difficulties in his personal life that the poem alludes to as imperfections in the staircase. Despite the setbacks he often encountered, though, Hughes continued to climb the staircase of his literary career, and he eventually became famous as a poet.

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