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Advice To My Son By Peter Meineke Personal Response Essay Sample

In this poem, a parent--either a mother or father--provides guidance to a son about how to live life. In the first stanza, the parent suggests that the son must "live your days / as if each one may be your last" (lines 1-2). The son must realize that life can be fleeting and, unfortunately, can end at any time. However, at the same time, the son must "plan long range" (line 5). If the son...

In this poem, a parent--either a mother or father--provides guidance to a son about how to live life. In the first stanza, the parent suggests that the son must "live your days / as if each one may be your last" (lines 1-2). The son must realize that life can be fleeting and, unfortunately, can end at any time. However, at the same time, the son must "plan long range" (line 5). If the son survives, he must plan ahead so that his days resemble heaven more than hell.

The parent's advice in the second stanza follows along the same lines, as it involves suggestions that the son balance the practical with the beautiful. For example, the son must plant not only peonies and roses, which are for beauty alone, but also practical foods such as tomatoes, squash, spinach, and others. This idea is metaphorical. The parent means that the son must cultivate activities that are for beauty at the same time that he attends to practical matters in life. Similarly, the son should marry a beautiful wife but, in a practical vein, investigate the wife's mother before he marries to see that she has aged well and is a good person. The son can be soulmates with one person but just work practically alongside another. In the last two lines, the parent suggests that the son always have bread--the practical part of life--along with wine--the beautiful part of life. 

The first factor affecting the difference between these two works is the circumstances of the authors.

Hughes was born in 1902 and Meinke some thirty years later in 1932. Hughes was African American and, though from an educated family, experienced several disruptions in his family life and worked odd jobs before finally succeeding as a writer. He moved to New York's Harlem, where he lived for most of his life, and rarely accepted offers to...

The first factor affecting the difference between these two works is the circumstances of the authors.

Hughes was born in 1902 and Meinke some thirty years later in 1932. Hughes was African American and, though from an educated family, experienced several disruptions in his family life and worked odd jobs before finally succeeding as a writer. He moved to New York's Harlem, where he lived for most of his life, and rarely accepted offers to teach at universities. Hughes never married.

Meinke, who is of white ancestry, was born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, and grew up in New Jersey. He attended Hamilton, an elite liberal arts college, received a PhD from the University of Minnesota, was a professor at Eckerd College in Florida from 1966 until his retirement in 1993, and is an active member of the academic creative writing community. He is married and has children.

"Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes reflects the situation of an African American woman, living in poverty and enduring racial discrimination, struggling to make a good life for herself and her family. The tone is colloquial, using many distinctly African American dialectical features. The mother urges the son to continue struggling to improve his life, never resting or relaxing, no matter how difficult the situation. She sees her struggles as a model for her son to emulate. The tone of the poem is one that prompts us to admire the mother's determination.

In comparison, "Advice to My Son" by J. Peter Meinke reflects a form of white privilege, taking for granted that neither narrator nor son really needs to face a life of struggle for survival. Instead, the poem follows a "carpe diem" theme, suggesting that as life passes by quickly, the son should enjoy sensual pleasures such as beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables and enjoy the luxury of relaxing with friends over wine. The son should, of course, marry a "pretty" girl (whether the girl has any intellectual or moral character doesn't seem to matter) and relax and enjoy life.

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