Mother to Son and the Coora Flower: a Poetry Analysis
Mother to Son and The Coora Flower: A Poetry Analysis In poetry, more so than any other form of literature, understanding sound, meaning and theme are key to understanding the work itself. In the case of the poems “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes and “The Coora Flower” by Gwendolyn Brooks these elements, when heavily focused upon, allow the reader to discover the message that these writers were attempting to convey.
Thought both writers use these elements to their fullest to communicate their respective messages, the method and messages vary greatly. In the poem Mother to Son, Hughes tells the tale of a mother speaking to her son about life and the hardships that one must face to make it in the world. Hughes uses extended metaphor to establish this view. In the second line he writes “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”, which initiates the metaphor.
He then proceeds to describe the stair of her life.
With the lines, “It’s had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up, and places with no carpet on the floor…” he support the mothers claim that like has not been a crystal stair case by using the metaphor to make a direct comparison between imperfections in the staircase and the pitfalls in life. He continues on with the line “bare” symbolizing rock bottom, nothingness, the absence of value.
Then poem then begins to rise in action to signify the continued climb and the need to continue on, which is seen in the following lines; “I’se been a-climbin’ on,/ and reachin’ landin’s,/ and turnin’ corners,/ and sometimes goin’ in the dark…” the narrator states to the son once more that they still continue to climb and that life was easy for them. The language and the line structure chosen by Hughes help facilitate the message. He use very simple language but is able to invoke strong emotions from the reader.
The language would potentially lead the reader to believe that this is truly a simple woman who had to struggle everyday of her life to make it. If Hughes had used more formal language within the work I do believe the mood would have been lost. The use of “And” at the beginning of lines creates almost a stepping motion within the rhythm of the words. Lines four, five and six in conjunction with the use of “And” creates a feeling of stepping or maybe even falling down stairs. Each lines description gets progressively worse until there is nothing left, which signified having nothing left to lose.
Then with lines ten, eleven and twelve the use of “And” creates the sense of climbing back up with the same speed at which you fell. Line twelve ends the climb in sound and creates a leveling off that coincides with the walk through the dark stated in the poem. This established a mood of cautiousness, feeling things are. I thought this was a perfect example of theme and sound coming together to support meaning. I especially like the lines, “Don’t you set down on the steps.
/ ‘Cause you find it’s kinder hard. It shows that giving up isn’t an option; that quitting is the easy way out and that continuing to struggle on and fight is what’s really difficult. She asks no more of the son than she would ask of herself because she knows that it can be done, she was able to accomplish it herself. In Brooks’ poem The Coora Flower, she writes about escapism and reality. The poem starts off with the narrator telling the reader what she learned about and then we are snatched back into reality with the lines, “Now I am coming home. / This, at least, is Real, and what I know.
The following stanzas construct the comparison between life in school which is the escape and the life outside which is reality; “It was restful, learning nothing necessary. / School is a tiny vacation. At least you can sleep…/ But now it’s Real Business. I am Coming Home. ” And as we read on we discover that reality is harsh, cold, painful and unrelenting and that the other world is more optimistic, warm and liberated. “My mother will be screaming in an almost dirty dress.
/ The crack is gone. So a Man will be in the house. / I must watch myself. / I must not dare to sleep. These lines define reality within the poem. Brooks also relies heavily on nuances within the structure and language to establish the message.
The stanzas that contain information about school are longer and articulate. The lines flow and are inviting. When the lines about reality are read they are short, cold and very deliberate; they give a sense of rigidity. The language is very direct and in some case demanding “I must…”. All stanzas about what’s “real” are two lines long while the ones that focus on school are four lines long. The statements toward school came off as being very cynical to me.
It was restful, learning nothing necessary… At least you can sleep”, the use of “at least” in these lines and the line that follows are what created the cynicism for me. It seemed as if she didn’t respect what went on in school because it wasn’t the harshness of her everyday life. Capitalization is something that caught my attention. The word “Real” always has the first letter capitalized, which to me established a mood of seriousness within the statements that contained it. I feel this is true the second use of “Coming Home” and “Man” in line fourteen.
The capitalization on these words was carefully chosen to continue facilitating the theme and meaning.
There is one line in this poem that caught my attention and required me to reread repeatedly to get what she truly meant that line is “which is not free from grief”. At first I thought it was just in reference to the previous line “At least you can think of love or feeling your boy friend against you” but upon multiple readings I realized that this was in reference to the whole stanza. She’s hinting at the fact that even good things come with their element of heartache.
I found that to be an interesting idea and it shows that the narrator may never be able to find peace, maybe she thrives on the hardship and anguish that comes with her life because that is all she knows. When the two works are placed side by side one would have a hard time make a connection between them. It is true that the differences between the works are great but elements exist in both; some minor, some major but all important.
One could make the simple connection both individual were African- American doesn’t give them the respect they deserve.
Also that connection would have to be made off historical references outside of the work because nothing in either work given you indication that they are African American. The connection that should be made is that the both wrote of adversity and hardship; that both used elements like structure, language, tone to convey their message but end the came out with very different view points. From a psychological perspective the reader can focus on the fact that in Hughes’ poem the adversity within it was deemed to be external to the one relationship shown.
In the case of Brooks the adversity was internal to the shown relationship. In both situations the writers own their material, you get the sense that these works are true to life for both of them.
But where Hughes’ work is empowering, Brooks’ work is saddening because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for her narrator you just she the cold, harsh reality that is life, which was her intention. Her story was never meant to be uplifting it was meant to depress and sadden. Even in her few moments of joy, the narrator still could be happy because she knew at any moment it could all end.
Both writers are successful at establishing a mood and theme throughout there works. I believe if these writers had an opportunity to sit down with either they would see elements of themselves in the other. In one case the young and still hopefully individual and in the other harden and scared individual that the young may become.
But in the end these are my interpretations and it up to you to make your own. That’s the wonderful part about poetry it’s different for everyone who reads it.