Figurative Language in "Mother to Son"

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Mother to Son Figurative Language

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Activity Overview


This activity allows students to break down the various components of the extended metaphor in ”Mother to Son”. As students read through each line, they will need to identify the figurative meanings behind Hughes’s word choices. Students should be able to cite a line from the poem and understand its literal meaning (as it pertains to the staircase) and its figurative meaning (as it pertains to the mother’s life). With this storyboard, students should choose 3-5 important lines from the text and depict their figurative meaning. Below each image, have students provide a brief explanation of the image they chose to represent.


”Mother to Son” Figurative Language

"Life for me ain't been no crystal stair"

Life has been difficult for the speaker. She has had to struggle and work hard to survive and improve her circumstances.


"It's had tacks in it/ and splinters"

The "staircase" of life has been filled with difficulties.The tacks and splinters represent hardships and moments that brought the mother pain. These could include working long hours, losing a job, dealing with illness, watching a loved one die, or many other difficulties.


“Bare”

The "bare" portion of the staircase again suggests difficulties. By isolating the word "bare" in its own line, Hughes suggests the mother was lonely or poor. She had no soft carpet of friends or money to bring her comfort or to ease the pain of her journey.


"And sometimes going in the dark/Where there ain't been no light"

The darkness represents hopelessness. When the speaker says there "ain't been no light", she suggests that there is no happy, bright spot in her life to bring her joy or give her hope in a brighter future.



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