Mother to Son Questions and Answers
by Langston Hughes

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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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Langston Hughes's 1922 poem "Mother to Son" is presented as a monologue in the vernacular. The mother is plainspoken and her tone is both matter-of-fact and intimate because it is imperative that her son hear what she has to say about her life and his.

Her chosen phrase, "a crystal stair" is symbolic of the easy life that the elite lead. Their progress through life is pristine, perfect, and effortless. By way of contrast, the climb that the speaker has endured was full of painful obstacles she has managed to maneuver. The metaphor that she uses is an upward journey that is ultimately both realistic and hopeful.

Though her upward climb has been made difficult with "tacks...splinters" and torn up boards, she focuses on her progress as she has reached "landins" and turned "corners." She acknowledges that she has faced uncertainties symbolized by places "where there ain’t been no light." At this point in the poem she exhorts her son with imperatives delivered in a fierce and loving...

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