Is there any rhyme or alliteration in the poem "Mother to Son?"

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Tressa Beahan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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While the other Educator is correct in saying there is no alliteration in “Mother to Son,” one could argue that Hughes uses internal rhyme in the poem.

Internal rhyme is defined as when two or more words within a single line of poetry rhyme with each other. In contrast to end rhyme, internal rhyme has a less sing-song effect because it is often more subtle.

The following line contains internal rhyme:

“Well, son, I’ll tell you” (Line 1).

In this line, the words "well" and "tell" are complete rhymes. However, it is easy to overlook as a reader because the diction and syntax mimic everyday speech. Even so, this is an example of internal rhyme. One might even suggest that the internal rhyme is unintentional, since beginning sentences with “well” is a colloquialism in African American Vernacular English.

Overall, Hughes doesn’t rely on common sound devices that could take away from the message of his poem. He uses plenty of assonance throughout the poem, with the repetition of the long “i” sound in several lines, but alliteration and rhyme are not important in this particular poem.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Langston Hughes' poem "Mother to Son" contains no rhyme or alliteration. In fact, Hughes deliberately avoids such "prettifying" devices as pleasant rhyme schemes or alliterative devices to underscore how hard the narrator's life has been. The jagged, unrhymed cadences of the poem speak to the jagged lack of beauty in the mother's life. The language is hard, blunt and direct. The mother has lived a life that doesn't rhyme. It has been filled with "tacks" and "splinters" and "boards torn up." As she repeats twice, life for her "ain't been no crystal stair." Instead, she has struggled. At the same time, while life has been hard for her, she encourages her son to keep on going, as she does. "Don't you sit down on the steps" she says, just because life is rough. "Ise still goin'," she tells him. Her unvarnished description of the truth of how life really is becomes an inspiration to the poet that no pretty rhyme could match. 

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