Treasure Island

Langston Hughes

(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967 / Missouri)

Mother to Son


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.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Maiya Evans (12/18/2013 8:05:00 PM)

    Mother To Son is clearly saying that with perserverence comes success. Because if you try over and over again you can get somewhere in life. Whereas if you give up after the first time you try, then you know that you won't be able to accomplish anything in life. Like the singer P! nk once said, You gotta get up and try, try, try. The mother in this poem is portayed as an uneducated lady who struggled through life. Since she went through all this herself, she doesn't want her son going down the same path she went down. In the poem his mother says that life for me ain't been no crystal stair, which shows that life for her was very difficult and wasnt clear cut like how some people's lives may seem. When she implies that the staircase has had tacks in it, And splinters, And boards torn up, And places with no carpet on the floor— Bare, she's saying that there were obstacles along the way while she experienced many things. But afterwards she states that 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, that no matter what life threw at her, she found a way to get through it all. (Report) Reply

  • Te'anna Nixon (8/21/2012 6:35:00 PM)

    i love your poem it teaches us that no matter what we go through in life bucause its going to be hard we can't give up on life or on the challenges it throws at you (Report) Reply

  • Francine Menaker (9/20/2011 3:53:00 PM)

    This poem is not only toching and inspiring, the imagery is amazing. The juxtaposition of the smoothness of the crystal stair with the tacks. I've read this poem for over 40 years and it still conjures up incredible images - in the most simple way. (Report) Reply

  • Israh Sadan (8/18/2011 5:19:00 PM)

    While the message is inspiring this poem is also wonderfully rhythmic. If you read it as the words of a tired old woman, patiently making her way up the stairs, climbing over life's challenges. You hear the pulse of determination in these words. I love this poem. (Report) Reply

  • Cleapatra Born2Write (6/17/2010 1:15:00 AM)

    What an endearing and loving scene between a hard working mother and her son. Even through the lack of education and the never ending hardship of poverty; this mother was able to give her son advice that was priceless. The two lines that stuck me the most were:
    Don't you set down on the steps.
    'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
    We all need to get up off the steps and persevere. The struggles we face today are minute, and minimal compared to the struggles our ancestors made. (Report) Reply

  • Hope Anonymous (5/28/2010 3:26:00 PM)

    Maybe if African-Americans (specifically males) actually realized how much their ancestors suffered 'back-in-the-day' they'd actually take the time to become something more in their lives instead of sinking to violence and drugs, etc.This poem and 'The Negro Mother' has definately inspired me to become Something in my life...to make all my ancestors and all the Black people who died for me to have the privledges that I have now, proud. (Report) Reply

  • Laquittia Thomas (11/7/2008 10:35:00 AM)

    I remember having to site this poem in third grade. Then, I never thought about what it meant or what I was saying. Just the other day this poem came to mind and I had to look it up on line. I'am now 29 and what I get from this poem is; the mother had worked hard and is still working hard and in doing so she as turned around somewhere in her life and found it to be harder to go back than to stay focus on your dream or destination. Now that her son is coming along in life, he now sees that life is not a crystal stair and there will be bumps and other curves in life but you have to stay straight because it not nessarily easier to get ahead but it is a heck of a lot harder to turn back and then turn in the right direction. Also, she is trying to keep her son from making that same mistake because although lifes' obstacles may or may not be a crystal stair it takes hard work to claim it. (Report) Reply

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