The Power of Perseverance in the Midst of Struggle
Langston Hughes uses descriptive poetry to illustrate the struggles of being an African-American living in Harlem. Hughes uses imagery in his poem, “Mother to Son”, to convey a theme of perseverance in his description of a mother’s life and her actions in the midst of struggle.
Hughes uses imagery to convey a theme of perseverance in his description of the life of a mother. The mother in Hughes’ poem describes how her life has, “had tacks in it/and splinters” (Hughes 3-4). Hughes uses this description to illustrate the great pain the mother experiences every day of her life by incorporating the image of tacks and splinters. Hughes uses these objects as a way to convey that, though tacks and splinters may be small, they are still capable of causing great pain. Hughes chooses to use tacks and splinters because they reflect how, similar to how splinters and tacks may be difficult to see, pain is often unexpected and life is full of this unexpected pain. The mother continues to describe how her life has had, “boards torn up,/ And places with no carpet on the floor–/ Bare” (Hughes 5-7). Hughes uses the imagery of torn up boards and bare floors to illustrate how the mother has experienced times in her life where she has felt great uncertainty. Hughes uses boards often viewed as the foundation for a home, as a way to demonstrate how there are times in life when nothing seems to go according to plan and even the most secure parts of one’s life can be taken away. Hughes uses imagery to convey to the reader that life has unexpected changes that can be painful and stressful.
In addition, Hughes uses imagery to convey a sense of perseverance through the actions of the mother. The mother describes to her son that she continues to persevere through life even, “in the dark/where there ain’t been no light” (Hughes 12). Hughes uses darkness to convey a sense of uncertainty, and to demonstrate how even when the mother is uncertain of what the next day will bring, she continues to live her life one day at a time. This depiction of darkness reflects the struggles Hughes’ generation faced during the racism and oppression of African-Americans that occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as survival was never guaranteed for African-Americans. Despite being uncertain of her own survival amidst the racial hate groups and oppression, the mother chooses to continue to persevere and illustrates the recurring theme of perseverance through her actions.
Langston Hughes lived through the period of great oppression and racism that is often associated with the twentieth century. Hughes uses imagery to reflect the pain life held for African-Americans during this time period and uses imagery to describe the pain of a mother’s life. Also, Hughes uses imagery to reflect how it is imperative to persevere even in times of uncertainty and uses the actions of the mother in his poem to further illustrate this theme of perseverance. Hughes’ poetry is the embodiment of the social reform that began in the early twentieth century and demonstrates the power of perseverance.