Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

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Kerala State Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son (Poem)

Mother to Son Textual Questions Activities and Answers

Question 1.
Who is the speaker in the poem? Do you feel the presence of a listener? How?
Answer:
The speaker is the mother of a boy. We do feel the presence of a listener, who is her son. The words are directly spoken to him.

Question 2.
What does ‘no crystal stair’ mean?
Answer:
Crystal is a solid substance with proper shapes. It also means strong transparent glass. So the phrase ‘no crystal stair’ means the stairs of life are not smooth, plain and clear. Life is hard.

Question 3.
Was life easy for the narrator? Pick out evidence from the first stanza to support your answer.
Answer:
No, it wasn’t. Life for her was not a crystal stair. It had tacks and splinters. Boards were torn up and not carpeted.

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

Question 4.
The first stanza ends with the word ‘bare ’. What does the speaker mean by the word ‘bare’?
Answer:
‘Bare’ means naked or exposed. She did not have enough clothes or shoes to wear. Her life was bare, just like the stair was bare without any carpet. It hints at her poverty.

Question 5.
When life becomes challenging, does the speaker give up? How do you know?
Answer:
No, she doesn’t. Because she says, all the time she had been climbing on and reaching landings.

Question 6.
What do the phrases ‘turnin’ comers’ and ‘set down on the steps ’ mean?
Answer:
These phrases are the Americanisms in the poem. “Tumin’ comers” means to overcome difficulties one by one. ‘Set down’ means ‘sit down’. The mother, who is a Black Woman, is asking her son not to sit down on the step because he is tired of the problems.

Question 7.
The speaker speaks of the ‘dark times’. What does the poet refer to here?
Answer:
‘Dark times’ refers to the hardships in life. As the mother says she was sometimes going in the dark where there has not been any light. Often she had to travel even without a ray of hope.

Question 8.
What advice does the speaker give? Pick out the relevant line from the poem.
Answer:
The advice she gives is not to turn back, not to sit down on the steps and not to fall. “Boy, don’t you turn back. Don’t you set down on the steps. Don’t, you fall now.”

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

Question 9.
With what message does the poem end?
Answer:
The poem ends with the message to go forward in spite of the problems. The obstacles should not stop us from going ahead.

Let’s Revisit

Read the poem again and answer the questions choosing the most appropriate answer from the options given.
1. In the first seven lines, a stairway with ‘tacks in it and splinters’ is being compared to
a. the carpet on the stairway
b. the other people who live in the run-down housing
c. the son
d. life
Answer:
d. life

2. In this poem, boards with ‘tacks and splinters’ and ‘boards turn up’ are symbols for
a. run-down housing
b. a life with many difficulties and challenges
c. the ungrateful manner in which the mother’s son treats her
d. the lack of compassion for fellow beings
Answer:
b. a life with many difficulties and challenges

3. what does ‘reachin’ landin’s’ symbolise in the mother’s life?
a. difficult situations in her life
b. phases in her life that seemed magical to her
c. compassionate forces in her life
d. places devoid of light
Answer:
c. compassionate forces in her life.

4. Why do you think the word ‘bare’ is used in the poem?
a. to emphasize the son’s brutality
b. because Hughes couldn’t think of anything else to add to that line
c. to emphasize how difficult and ‘bare’ of luxuries the mother’s life had been
d. because it rhymes with the word ‘stair’
Answer:
c. to emphasize how difficult and ‘bare’ of luxuries the mother’s life had been.

5. Which of the following is the most suitable meaning for ‘turnin’ comners’ in the Poem?
a. phases in her life where she tried to solve problems on her own
b. phases in her life where she felt she had failed
c. moments in her life when she knew her son would be successful
d. her need to find a father figure for her son
Answer:
a. phases in her life where she tried to solve problems on her own.

6. what is the theme of the poem?
a. One shouldn’t be over confident.
b. When you are in trouble, look to your mother for advice.
c. Don’t give up reach out to the goals you have set for yourself.
d. Love for mankind.
Answer:
c. Don’t give up reach out to the goals you have set for yourself.

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

7. The ‘crystal stair’ is a metaphor used in the Poem. Why do you think Hughes is
referring to the stairway as ‘crystal’?
a. Crystals are beautiful, but they are also fragile and slippery.
b. Crystals sparkle in the sunlight.
c. Crystals have different colors in them depending on how the light hits them.
d. You can almost see through a crystal.
Answer:
d. You can almost see through a crystal.

8. Why is ‘stairway’ used as an appropriate metaphor to describe the wisdom the mother
is trying to impart to her son?
a. Stairways are always dirty and rough.
b. One has to clean and wax a stairway to make it look good.
c. One requires steady persistence to go up and down a stairway.
d. Stairways are often found in expensive houses.
Answer:
c. One requires steady persistence to go up and down a stairway.

9. What is the most likely age of the son?
a. Old age
b. Infancy
c. Middle age
d. Teenage
Answer:
d. teenage

10. The language used in the poem, pertaining to a particular culture or geographic area is known as a:
a. dialogue
b. dialect
c. diction
d. idiom
Answer:
b. dialect

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

Activity 1

Question 1.
The metaphor “…. life for me ain’t been no crystal stair’ is an extended metaphor, it is seen throughout the poem. Do you think that the poem can convey the right idea without his metaphor? Why?
Answer:
I don’t think the poem can convey the right idea without this metaphor in the poem. The narrator is the poem is a Black American woman. Life for the Blacks was very hard in the America of the past. Things have changed for the better and we even see the first Black President in Barak Obama. But when Langston Hughes was writing this poem, it was impossible to even imagine that a Black man would become the President one day. The Blacks had to struggle even for their existence.

It was with great difficulty they found even decent livelihood. So the mother is telling her son that she had been working hand to reach even where she has reached. Life is a journey, an upward journey and we use stairs. But here the stairs are full of tacks and splinters. There are dark comers and there are no carpets. Every turn there are problems and obstacles. So it needs courage to go on. Such an idea could be conveyed only through the metaphor of the non crystal stairs.

Activity 2

Question 1.
What literary elements does Langston Hughes use to convey the message in the poem ‘Mother to Son’?
Consider the following:
1. What is the relevance of the metaphor ‘crystal stair’?
2. Why does the poet use the Afro-American dialect in the poem? A dialect is a form of language that is spoken in one area with grammar, words and pronunciation that may be different from other forms of the same language. Does the dialect give you any clue regarding the social status of the speaker in the Poen? Pick out the examples of the dialect from the poem.
3. How does the poem effectively make use of familiar things as word pictures or images such as tacks, splinters, etc.?
Answer:
To convey his message, Langston Hughes has used different literary elements. He has used the extended metaphor of the non-crystal stairs to show how hard it had been for her to go ahead in life with all the tacks and splinters on the stairs. He has used the American dialect, especially used by Black Americans. Examples are a-climbin’, reachin’, goin’ ain’t, cimbin’ etc. He has also used double negatives like “ain’t been no light”, “ain’t been no crystal stair” etc.

Set down to mean sit down, and Tse been’ to mean I have been, ‘it’s kinder’ to mean it is kind of etc. are typical Black American English. The poet has also used familiar words like tacks, splinters, torn up and bare to enhance the quality of the poem and to drive the message home. The speaker is a Black American lady and she is talking to her teenage son to go forward in life with courage and determination in spite of all the hardships he may face. She had done it and he too can do.

Activity 3

The poem is in the form of an advice given by a mother to son. Have you come across similar poems in your mother tongue? Consider the following lines from the eminent Malayalam poet Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan’s poem Kozhi.
Work out the thematic parallel between these two poems and present your ideas before the class.
Answer:
In the poem ‘Kozhi’, Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan also gives a similar message. Here the mother hen is advising her young chicks. They should have their eyes on both sides and also up and down. There should be burning insight in the eyes. Tears should not wet the eyes and blur their vision. All this is needed to forge ahead in life. In Mother to Son, Langston Hughes says almost similar things to her son. She asks her son to overcome the tacks and splinters, the uncarpeted and broken boards with the determination and insight. The message both the poems give is: “Don’t give up, be alert and have confidence.”

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

Mother to Son About Author

Hughes (1902-1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist. He is one of the innovators of jazz poetry. He is known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Some of his best works are: Montage of a Dream Deferred, The Negro Speaks of Rivers and Let America Be America Again.
Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son 1

Mother to Son Summary in English

p. 157 – 158 In the poem we see how a Black person suffers in a White-dominated society. The poem is a dramatic monologue. Only the mother is speaking and the son is just listening. The mother tells her son that her life had not been very smooth. The steps she had to climb were broken here and there and she had to be careful not to fall down. The floor is not carpeted showing that life had been very rough for her. But in spite of all the problems she faced, she had been steadily climbing and reaching landings. Sometimes she had been walking in darkness without any light at all. She had to negotiate dangerous bends.

She is telling her son never to feel disappointed and turn back. He should not sit down on the steps even though he might find them hard to climb on. He should be careful not to fall down. In the end she tells her son that all her life she had been climbing in spite of all the problems and she is still climbing.

Mother to Son Summary in Malayalam

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son 2

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son

Mother to Son Glossary

Kerala Syllabus 10th Standard English Solutions Unit 5 Chapter 2 Mother to Son 3

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