In Langston Hughes?s poem, Mother to Son, the audience is aware of whom the speaker of the poem is from the title, itself. The audience is fully aware that a mother speaking to her son because in the first line of Hughes poem the mothers says, ??Life for me ain?t been no crystal stair.? According to Unabridged crystal is defined as ?glass of fine quality and a high degree of brilliance...[and] composed of crystal.? When one looks at the word ?crystal? within the context of the poem Hughes clearly used this word to make a point that the Mother?s life hasn?t been perfect. Things made out of crystal are often considered to be pristine and held to a much higher standard; this is both true of the time when this poem was written and even applies to the modern times. Since the Mother states ?Life for me ain?t been no crystal stair/? Hughes obviously lets the reader know that the woman has had a hard life.
In the next five lines of the poem, lines three to seven, the mother tells her son exactly how her life hasn?t been easy. Langston has the mother tell her son that her life has ?had tacks?splinters?boards torn up?places with no carpet on the floor??Bare.? One look at Unabridged one will learn of the definition of the tacks to be ?a short, sharp-pointed nail...[or] a course of action or conduct, especially one differing from some preceding or other course.? In context, both definitions, would work within the poem. If one were to be a actual physical tack into a piece of crystal it would mostly life shatter the brilliant crystal and make it imperfect; much like that of the mother?s life. In addition, if one were to step on a tack with a ?Bare/? foot, then one would be in extreme pain. But with looking at a second definition it would make more metaphorical contextual sense; a staircase could be seen as a predestined course. By having hardships within the Mother?s life it would most definitely created many tacks within the course of her life. Hughes word choice, which at this point, is seen as mostly negative and that paints a picture, to the audience, that the mother?s life has indeed been a difficult one.
?Bare? is a word that Hughes isolates within the poem and is the only word in the seventh line of the poem. The Collins English Dictionary states that bare is defined as ?unclothed; exposed...unembellished; simple...just sufficient; mere.? All the definitions in context imply that the Mother may have not come from a wealthy upbringing that a ?crystal stair? would have provided for her; instead Hughes writes, ?It?s had tacks . . . / splinters . . . / [its been] torn up. . . / Bare. /? Thus adding to the fact the Mother hasn?t had the pristine crystal life. And in the eight line of the poem the mother states, ?But all the time/? meaning that she has struggled her entire life but she always want to move forward with her life, even with the hardships. Interestingly, bare is a homonym of bear which could mean to ?to bring forth (young); give birth to? ( So even bearing a child won?t stop the Mother from ?climbin?? up her less than perfect metaphorical and symbolic stairs of life.
Hughes writes in the ninth line of the poem ?I?se been a-climbin? on, . . . / For I?se still goin? . . . /? but what does climbing mean with the context of his writing? One won?t find climbin? in a dictionary spelled in this slang, and perhaps, uneducated fashion but climbing according to is ?to rise slowly by or as if by continued effort . . . to ascend or rise.? By spelling in this fashion Hughes could be implying that a lack of education may have been of the hardship in the Mother?s life but one could see the definition in a more optimistic light; the mother is telling her son to ascend and rise to his fullest potential on his own personal stairwell of destiny, just as she has done with her own life.
As one can see, Hughes?s poems takes a turn to a more positive light because the mother is giving her son words