Langston Hughes Biography and Life

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Langston Hughes was an American writer who expressed his interest in cultural nationalism especially during the time period of the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes was a firm believer in having dreams and becoming a better version of oneself. In his poem “Mother to Son”, he incorporates the theme of not giving up after your dreams while in his poem “Harlem” it depicts the theme if one would give up or put their dreams on hold. Both poems have themes of aspiring dreams and whether you go for it or not, all incorporating metaphors , imagery, and structure.

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Hughes’ poem “Mother to Son” interprets as a mother telling her not not to give up on the American dream that easily. Throughout most of the poem she tries to tell her son that she worked hard to get to where she it. She tries to explain to him that it has not been an easy journey for her based on the fact she said “life for me ain’t no crystal stair” (Hughes 2). In other words, the good things in her life were not just handed to her, she had to work though though obstacles to make it. She tells her son the she kept chasing her dreams no matter how many obstacles she went through, even if she didn’t know what she was doing. Throughout the poem there is a tone of hope in the mother’s voice, knowing that if they keep working on their dreams they will eventually make it. Hughes uses imagery while talking about the stairs that the mother is climbing. He describes them as being torn up with no carpet having tacks and splinters and besides having all these set backs on the stairs the mother still kept going. The stairs themselves are a metaphor for success with her descriptions of her overcoming all the obstacles and climbing the stairs of success. This is the life of a mother who is giving her son some advice about life, encouraging him to keep climbing those stairs even though its hard. She uses herself as an example because she wants to show him that she hasn’t stopped so he shouldn’t either. Hughes’ intentions of this poem was to give encouragement on not giving up on the American dream and how has it is for African Americans to achieve them. He shows how African Americans were not handed down things on a silver platter and that if they wanted to achieve that dream of a successful future then they had to work twice as hard

Langston Hughes was a believer on having dreams, he was a major inspiration during the Harlem Renaissance movement. Hughes’ poem “Harlem” is like a contrast to his poem “Mother to Son” because instead of focusing on achieving dreams, “Harlem” focuses on putting your dreams on hold especially since many African Americans had to because they were not allotted the opportunity to do so. Throughout the poem Hughes is depicting the aftermath of a dream after you give up on it. He uses similes to compare the thought of an abandoned dream to things in the real world that are unappealing. He compares it to a raisin in the sun which in other words he is suggesting that if these dreams shrivel up into nothing after giving them up. He also depicts putting a dream on hold as painful by comparing it to a festering sore and then running with that. Hughes is trying to show that not matter how hard you try to work for these dreams it can be painful when you can’t further it along. The tone of this poem has a sense of doubt on whether one should give up on their dream and not fight until the end. Hughes compares these unachievable dreams to a heavy load. With that being said, he is comparing the fact that the guilt they have on giving them up is weighing them down and not allowing them to progress. But then the last line in his poem gives a sense of hope, he stated : “or does it explode” (11). This can be interpreted as having a change of though and expanding on following that dream.

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Langston Hughes Biography and Life. (2021, Jul 05). Retrieved from