Sep 25

example of a weekly reader responding to a poem:

“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 —
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.
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.”
-Langston Hughes

The poem/quote above by Langston Hughes, an influential African American writer during the Harlem Renaissance, really caught my eye. For one, I find this quote to have no color. Although a majority of Langston Hughes’ work is centered around him as an African American male living in the 20s, I find that this piece can be viewed without color.

I like this quote because it can relate to anyone or anything that has faced a certain obstacle in life. Most of the time we address what obstacles we have faced, however, we do not address how we have faced them. Hughes suggest the luxurious life in comparison to  a crystal stair and then focuses on a main character who has suggested that this was not the life he had. When I think of crystal I think, smooth, shiny, pricey, fantastic, impressive, and beautiful. Hughes then uses a great deal of imagery where he compares the life of the character as staircase that is torn, ragged, and wooden. This staircase has tacks and in my mind came off as large and uncomfortable. As if it hurt to climb the case. I think the man making this comparison is seemingly similar to Lord Chesterfield’s letter to his son, in that this man is telling his son his potential goals he wants for him. He is letting his son know that even though the staircase is difficult to climb, it is always harder to turn back and give up cause he will just have more to climb. Hughes poses a huge universal virture of “never give up” in a different light.

I was intrigued because the man climbing this staircase talked about how ugly, how hard, how painful it was to climb this staircase, in yet as one analyzes the tone of the quote the man does not ever have any intention of stopping. The man finds that climbing the staircase is hard and it probably will never get any easier. However, this man leaves us with the message that to stop climbing the staircase would be more difficult than to keep on.

The same concept applies to life and our struggles. A person’s time on this earth can be an unimaginable course of struggle, however, through those struggles it can only do one good to move forward. Life can always get better and even if life does not improve for someone, someone can always improve their live for themselves.

It is crazy how a man can take the thought of two staircases, describe them in two different ways, and send me on such a tangent. However, I find true talent in an author’s ability to take the simple thing, and imply a complex thought. There are more Langston Hughes quotes below. Most of them are about life, happy and sad. Enjoy(:


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