“Mother to Son” Langston Hughes poem GREAT Viola Davis voice–then POET HIMSELF RECITES!



Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Mother to Son” (read by Viola Davis? — some interpretive questions for discussion in the classroom:

1) Does the mother give words of wisdom, or is she stating the obvious? Doesn’t everyone already know that life can be hard?

2) How old is this son? Don’t give a range (that’s too easy)–give a specific age.

3) The mother uses improper grammar and drops endings from words–why should anyone take the mother seriously if she can’t speak properly? She seems to say “don’t give up” to her son, but does the poem imply that the mother gave up on school?

4) The mother says, “Don’t you set down on the steps.” Why can’t the son rest? Why not sit down for five minutes before continuing to climb?

5) Why is the word “Bare” given its own line?

6) Is the mother implying that a “crystal stair” is desirable? (Staircases are never made of glass–foolish idea, right?)

7) “Wise” or “bossy”–which word is more accurate for this mother? Would her words be more effective if the tone were less bossy, or is her tone perfect for this moment?

“Mother to Son” — some evaluative questions:

1) Could this poem be shaped into a sonnet and still work, or is free verse needed for the poem?

2) If your mother said the poem’s words to you at the dinner table tonight, would you roll your eyes at some point?

3) The poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley likewise has a message about not giving up. Which poem is better?

______________________

FOR MY STUDENTS–GET A PARTNER, RECITE THE POEM TO EACH OTHER, AND THEN READ ALOUD THIS DIALOGUE SO WE HAVE THOUGHTS FOR DISCUSSION

I studied this poem two years ago in English 9. Why revisit the poem during junior year?
G-Dawg says it is healthy to revisit famous poems. He says we are more mature now, so we’ll get more out of it.
But he says dental floss is edible, so I don’t listen. What else?
G-Dawg said “Mother to Son” is another product of the Harlem Renaissance.
I need reminding. What is this Harlem Renaissance thing?
That’s the name for an explosion among the arts–poems, paintings, music, novels–produced by African Americans. It started around World War I and ended in the 1930s, but the 1920s was its heyday.
I can’t decide if the poem’s mother gives words of wisdom or if she states the obvious. Everyone already knows that life can be hard!
It may depend on how old the son is. If he is young, then her words are perfect. But if he is our age, I want to know if he’s hot.
The mother uses improper grammar and drops endings from words–why should anyone take the mother seriously if she can’t speak properly? She seems to say “don’t give up” to her son, but did the mother “give up” on school?
I agree that this mother is not so great but for a different reason. She says, “Don’t you set down on the steps.” Why can’t the son rest? Why not sit down for five minutes before continuing to climb?
And why does the mother imply that a “crystal stair” is desirable? Staircases are never made of glass–foolish idea.
Maybe we are over-analyzing. Maybe we are missing the point.
If my mother said the poem’s words to me at the dinner table tonight, I would roll my eyes.
If we had time in class, we could discuss whether these poems we read are good or bad poems.
Anything else I need to know?
It’s free verse.
Of course it is free. You can find free poetry on the internet anytime.
No, I mean it does not have a sonnet structure. It does not rhyme. It has no regular rhythm like iambic.
Right. I knew that’s what you meant by free verse.
I like the way “bare” stands alone in one line. The word “bare” is bare.
Stop showing off. It’s annoying.

source

Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

38 thoughts on ““Mother to Son” Langston Hughes poem GREAT Viola Davis voice–then POET HIMSELF RECITES!

  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    Viola Davis should play Langston's mother in a movie! PPPllllleeeeaaaassseee make a movie about Hughes. This poet has moved so many people & continues to do so!

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    "3) The mother uses improper grammar and drops endings from words–why should anyone take the mother seriously if she can't speak properly? She seems to say "don't give up" to her son, but does the poem imply that the mother gave up on school?"
    WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS. You seriously are gonna encourage students to berate a speaker, who had probably been through the horrors of poverty and racism for their use of black dialect? YOU RACIST ASS FUCK.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    I have a test on this tomorrow and it helped me understand it so much. Thank you for posting it

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    A pretty girl performed this when I was I high school and I miss her.this ones for you baby

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    boy the so called negroid in this country is a special people!!!!! God's chosen people!!!!!

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    I have to recite this poem in class tomorrow and I find I'm learning it better by hearing it and reciting it with them thanks for uploading this

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    I'm posting this on my wall and sharing it with my son. My mom never shared too many of her struggles just tried to stay strong. Great right?
    No because as I struggle we can't relate because she's to insecure and ashamed to share.. As if she will look weak and vulnerable.
    People need to remember we all struggle…

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    This poem was very powerful it teaches you never to give up on your self.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    Langston Hughes breaks down the idea of how life. He talks about the high roads and the low road of life. I can relate to this poem .

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    The mother says to her son that life has not been a “crystal stair” – it has had tacks and splinters and torn boards on it, as well as places without carpet. The stair is bare. However, she still climbs on, reaching landings, turning corners, and persevering in the dark when there is no light. She commands him, “So boy, don’t you turn back.” She instructs him not to go back down the stairs even if he thinks climbing is hard. He should try not to fall because his mother is still going, still climbing, and her life “ain’t been no crystal stair.” What a wonderful poem r.i.p Langston Hughes.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    Langston Hughes breaks down the idea of how life isn't easy. He talks about the high roads and the low road of life. I can relate to this poem is many ways.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    This poem bring back those moments when my grandmother would tell me the story of when she talked about this to may father. Ever since the song has stuck with me. This story connected to my relationship that I have with my mother so I can relate to the story. It also gives life lessons in this poem. Its full of life challenges. It really connects with other people I can tell you that for sure.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    Life is full of challenges. For the ''mother'' in the poem her life is far from perfect. It is full of ''tacks and splinters'' for her to wade around. The message that Langston hughes created talk about the ''mothers'' life, as well as the life of anyone who is going through a rough time. When people are struggling they are tempted to give up on wading around ''tacks and splinters'' or barriers. The ''mother'' is like a mentor, leading people ,and keeping them moving. She has done something that few people can do . Keep a positive attitude! This poem teaches us to never stop trying to reach the top of the stairs.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    For some reason, this poem sticks with me. If someone asked me to remember a poem, I'd immediately say this poem. It hasn't really connected to me on an emotional level until I came back to listen to it again. It's a wonderful poem that I wish I had payed attention to when I was younger.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    This poem is truly one of my favorites and written by one of the most influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance.  The narration of the female voice is astounding as well as Langston Hughes!

    Reply
  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    We Did This Poem for Black History Month & It Has Had an Impact on Me & In Those Times Educating Ones Self Was Dangerous & Even Thou She Lacked Education, This Mother Still Taught Her Son a Valuable Lesson. To Keep Moving, Claiming & Even thou it's Been A Rough Life, A Hard Life, She Refuses To just Sit Still.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2017 at 10:32 pm
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    I first heard this in third grade.  I'm 47 now, and this is my favorite poem.  It's been a great source of encouragement to me through some very dark times.

    Reply

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