The Power of Perseverance: Insights from Hughes and Angelou

Categories: Poems

Life is a journey filled with challenges, obstacles that test our resolve. However, the essence lies in not succumbing to adversity, but in persistently striving until triumph emerges. Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son" and Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" may be distinct works by different authors, but both echo a shared message— the importance of resilience in the face of adversity. Through masterful use of figurative language and repetition, Hughes and Angelou vividly underscore the imperative to press on despite life's difficulties.

Langston Hughes: The Crystal Stair of Life

In "Mother to Son," Hughes captivates the reader by metaphorically portraying the narrator's challenging life as anything but a "crystal stair" (Hughes 2, 20). The crystal stair, symbolizing clarity and simplicity, is juxtaposed against the narrator's tumultuous existence. Hughes subtly conveys that life is neither clear nor elegant, urging individuals not to shrink from life's intricate challenges. The metaphor serves as a poignant reminder that no one's life journey resembles a pristine, straightforward ascent.

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Expanding on this metaphor, Hughes employs another vivid image, stating, "It’s had tacks in it / And splinters / And boards torn up / And places with no carpet on the floor" (3-6). Life is likened to a rough, bare floor marred by hardships. This metaphor vividly illustrates a life weathered by trials yet resilient, navigating through adversities. Hughes, in harmony with his message, encourages the reader to confront challenges head-on rather than yielding to life's hardships.

Maya Angelou: Rising Like Dust

Parallel to Hughes, Maya Angelou in "Still I Rise" utilizes similes to underscore the significance of persevering in the face of challenges.

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Angelou declares, "You may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise" (Angelou, 3-4). This powerful simile draws a parallel between triumph after life's challenges and the rising of dust after being trodden upon. It emphasizes the vitality of rising above adversity, akin to the inevitable ascent of dust from the ground.

In another striking comparison, Angelou writes, "Just like moons and like suns / With the certainty of tides / Just like hopes springing high / Still I’ll rise" (9-12). Angelou equates her resilience to the unwavering rise of celestial bodies and the certainty of tides. This vivid imagery reinforces her unwavering determination to rise despite enduring evident hardships. Angelou's poetic expression resonates, emphasizing the need to persistently rise when confronted with life's challenges.

Figurative Language and Determination

Both Hughes and Angelou, though employing different figurative elements, share a common theme — the importance of determination. Hughes employs metaphors to paint a vivid picture of life's struggles, while Angelou utilizes similes to draw parallels between personal triumphs and natural processes. Both poets successfully convey that persistence is key when facing life's obstacles, urging individuals not to yield but to endure.

The Harmony of Repetition

Beyond figurative language, the poets integrate repetition to underscore their message on resilience. Although the poems may initially appear distinct, the use of repetition weaves them together, reinforcing the shared theme of perseverance in challenging times. Through repetition, Hughes and Angelou compellingly communicate that enduring difficulties is not merely about tolerance but about overcoming them.

In conclusion, the poetry of Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou serves as a profound testament to the power of perseverance. Through the adept use of figurative language and repetition, both poets illuminate the path of resilience, urging individuals to press on in the face of life's trials. Life may not be a crystal stair, and challenges may leave metaphorical tacks and splinters, but the message is clear: one must rise, like dust, with determination akin to celestial bodies and the certainty of tides. Together, Hughes and Angelou craft a narrative that echoes the universal truth— the journey may be arduous, but the triumph lies in persistently rising against the odds.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023
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The Power of Perseverance: Insights from Hughes and Angelou. (2016, Nov 05). Retrieved from

The Power of Perseverance: Insights from Hughes and Angelou essay
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