In "Mother to Son" what is the extended metaphor?

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The extended metaphor in "Mother to Son" is the mother's life described as a staircase. She explains that the stairs aren't made of crystal, but consist of obstacles, such as tacks or lack of lighting to see, yet she has always kept climbing the stairs despite the difficulty of doing so. Her message here, in this metaphor to her son, is the importance of persistence despite the challenges of their social circumstances. 


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The extended metaphor in the poem is the comparison of life to a "crystal stair," or, in this speaker's case, the opposite of a crystal stair. When we envision the image of a crystal stair, we likely see something quite beautiful, clear—pristine even—and full of light. However, this mother describes the "stair" of her life as full of "tacks" and "splinters," "torn up" boards, and bare spots "with no carpet."

In other words, her life has been like a wooden staircase that has fallen into disrepair or has been damaged with so much use; perhaps (figuratively speaking, of course) she had to build it...

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