"Mother to son” is a monologue that states the relationship between a mother and her son. The mother in the poem warns her son about the challenges of racial discrimination and many critics believe that the mother emphasizes that negative obstacles exist in life and that her son should maintain an air of optimism in the face of racial discrimination (Scheft, 76)
The poet was born in the year 1902 a time when the United States suffered the burden of racial discrimination. His father abandoned them and they were left to fend for themselves. Hughes and his mother faced numerous difficulties and when it got bad his mother would leave him with his grandparents while she searched for work. The poet’s primary intension was to highlight and to help stop the discrimination against African Americans. His aim was to explore the lives of the African Americans who struggled with discrimination and poverty. The poet uses the stairway metaphor, first insisting that life for him wasn’t a crystal stair and thereafter symbolizes an old feeble staircase. This metaphorical use of the staircase emphasizes how the mother’s journey in life has been imperfect. The torn up boards, places with no carpet and splinters symbolize the neglect and overuse in the mother’s life as a result of being black in America. The “tacks” and “splinters” symbolize the pain and the threats the mother went through. She also pleads with her son to overcome these pains.
The common wisdom understood by my parent’s generation of “Mother to Son” revolves around the idea that the son can compare his struggles in life with that of his mother. They also believe that the mother pushes her son to achieve his goals despite the prevailing difficulties insisting that it will all be worthwhile in the end. In addition, the misconception that success is only achieved by living a perfect life is clearly brought out. The poet focuses on the difficulties African Americans faced and these included the lack of money and education (Scheft, 75).
My generation basically feels the same by comparison. We believe that the poem is indeed an illustration of the difficulties the mother faced in her life. In addition, we notice the fact that the son in the poem has no father, a fact he definitely struggles with. The poem is a strong depiction of the realities of life and the fact that nothing comes easy. This is a concept my generation can relate to and in more ways than one we are the son. The poem puts a significant amount of emphasis on hard work and the fact that determination will always pay off even in the face of adversity. My generation understands the symbolism in “tracks” as the sharpness and discomforts in life. It therefore goes without say that the lessons we learn from the poem are important to both generations and they include the value of hard work and the value of experience in a parent. The mother in the poem is the son’s life coach, guiding him through life, telling him what he has to do to succeed and assuring him that all will be well if he does what she tells him. My generation continually struggles with authority right from home and the outside world and the son is therefore a perfect example of what we should emulate because the truth is our parents have our best interests at heart and given their experience, we should learn to trust them.
In a nutshell, the poet clearly values and utilizes the close connection he has with his readers by using metaphors and themes that connect his work to his readers’ real lives. His persistence and devotion to ending racial discrimination is admired not only by my parent’s generation but my generation as well.