Introduction

A mother reassures and invigorates her son to keep moving forward in life and not give up when faced with a challenge. 

About the Poet

James Mercer Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He is one of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Montage of a Dream Deferred, The Negro Speaks of Rivers, Let America Be America Again, etc. are some of his known works.

Theme

The poem serves as an inspiration to each reader. Life is not easy for any one, we each have our own battles to fight. One must not give up when life gets tough but instead face the challenges bravely.

Stanza 1

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.

Explanation

The mother shares that her life has not been an easy ride with rainbows and sunshine, she has faced many challenges and the ride has been rough for her. Comparing her journey of life with stairs, she shares that they were not crystal ones but had rough patches and were torn apart at places, indicating the challenges.

Stanza 2

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
.

Explanation

The mother never let any challenge defeat her or hinder her journey, she kept moving forward regardless of the obstacles. At times life got very difficult for her and took her to dark and gloomy places but she kept fighting and then she was able to achieve her goals. She tells her son to not give up or leave when the going gets tough.

Stanza 3

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.

Explanation

The son should not get sad and discouraged and give up. Just because a phase is hard does not mean that his entire life will be hard. She encourages him by saying that she is still climbing and still hurdling challenges even now.