What does the mother compare her life to?

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Laurine Herzog eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In "Mother to Son", the mother compares her life to a splintered and dilapidated stairway:

It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up
A stairway is a means of getting somewhere or, literally, of moving up in the world. So, the mother could be comparing her life here, metaphorically, to a splintered and dilapidated stairway to suggest that her path in life has been a difficult one. The "tacks" and "splinters" and the ripped up "boards" could represent the obstacles that she has had to overcome. The description of the stairway also implies poverty, especially when compounded with the word "Bare" two lines later, so perhaps the mother's life has been difficult because she has been poor, and the obstacles that she has had to overcome are the obstacles that poverty...

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