Mother to Son by Langston Hughes Before Reading

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Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Before Reading

  1. Write about the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given. Who gave it to you? How have you put it to use?

  2. Using print and electronic resources, research the biography of Langston Hughes. Jot down the most important points about him. Be prepared to share with the class.

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 –


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 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.

After Reading

  1. In one well-written sentence, summarize what this mother is saying to her son.

  2. Explain the extended metaphor in the poem.

  3. Describe the voice of the narrator. Show how this voice creates believability in what the narrator is saying.

  4. a) With a partner, make a list of concrete objects you might compare life with.

b) Using “Mother to Son” as a model, write your own advice poem, creating an extended

metaphor from one thing on your list.


Using a similar voice, in poetic form, write a response to the mother from the son’s

point of view.

  1. a) Look up the definition of “dialect” in a dictionary.

b) Explain three words or phrases in this poem that are examples of dialect.

c) Write a short poem or paragraph in a dialect you admire.

6. From your research on Langston Hughes, discuss how his own life and his writing goals

might have influenced this poem.
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