Intro: “What is the most valuable thing your mother taught you when you were a child?
My mother taught me purple
Although she never wore it.
Wash-gray was her circle,
The tenement her orbit.
My mother taught me golden
And held me up to see it,
Above the broken molding,
Beyond the filthy street.
My mother reached for beauty
And for its lack she died,
Who knew so much of duty
She could not teach me pride.
• The poem's setting is a poor neighborhood made up of monotonous tenement buildings.
• Symbolism of two colors to express its thoughts:
Purple is majestic, luxuriant and vibrant. It symbolizes royalty.
Gray is dull, gloomy and colorless. It symbolizes their real status in the society.
The color of gold is symbolic too because it symbolizes hope.
• The impression of the mother is of someone who has been beaten down by the boredom and hardship of her life.
In the poem the poet speaks about royalty, and the rank they stand in the society. The poet describes wash gray for the mother, because in the family’s society, the family is living in the filthy streets. The poet is describing the family as a poor income family because of the washed gray life, and not the vibrant purple of the royal status.
• She taught her daughter to look beyond her immediate circumstances, where the color purple was not a part of her experience.
The mother has to hold up the poet because neither of them is rich enough to leave the filthy streets, so she has to hold up the poet to learn about 'golden' life. The poet’s mother was so distraught over not being able to attain 'beauty'. The mother taught the poet so much, but in the end she couldn't teach the poet about self respect and pride in one’s self. In the end the mother failed to teach the poet about the true things in life, and the poet is sad for the mother, and the mother could never uncover her self -respect.