In "Mother to Son," how does the poem's use of language and free verse contribute to the author's purpose?

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The use of language and free verse in this poem lets the mother's dialect and voice come through vividly. Her voice reaches us in an unmediated way. The poem therefore has the immediacy of direct address from the opening line on: "Well, son, I’ll tell you."

Free verse does not have a regular meter, and this allows Hughes to vary his line length to put the emphasis on certain words, such as "splinters" and "bare." The jagged rhythms mimic as well the mother's jagged climb up steps where she has to avoid missing boards, splinters, dark spots, and sharp corners.

Beyond dialect, the mother's central contrast is between her life climbing a tough set of stairs and the crystal stairway to heaven that Jacob dreamed he saw going up to heaven in the biblical book of Genesis. On this stairway, Jacob watched angels ascending and descending. The mother's life, she is saying, has not been that smooth, and her son's won't be either, because they are black people in America. Nevertheless, she advises her...

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