Consider the potential tension between the voices of the speakers in the two poems “Mother to Son” and “Motto.” Does the voice in either of the two poems seem to represent Hughes’s sincere voice? Or are they both rhetorical in some way? Which aspects of the poems seem more sincere and/or rhetorical? Which literary devices does he choose to use in each poem? How? Why?

The voice in the first poem is very sincere. Its basically a mother giving her son advice and telling him how difficult life was for her. She’s trying to encourage him and remind him to persevere through the difficult times. If she can still continue to “climb” then so can he. From the perspective of the poem and language, especially the short lines, you can visualize an older woman in an oppressed society who’s genuinely tired from what she has been through. She shares her toils with a young boy, being her son, in hopes times will be better. She personifies her life to physically have these imperfections from hard work and struggle. In the next poem, “Motto”, although Hughes seems sincere, it still is rhetorical. He expresses his feelings and message in an informal manner. Hughes uses slang such as “dig” as well as speaking colloquially to possibly relate to the reader. His concluding message could be interpreted to treat others the way you’d want to be treated in return. If you think deep enough you could say “Motto” and “Mother to Son” can relate to each other being that “Motto” is a message in response to society that put the struggle on the speaker of “Mother to Son”.

 

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