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America, by Claude McKay

analytical Essay
1105 words
1105 words
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The poem America by Claude McKay is on its surface a poem combining what America should be and what this country stands for, with what it actually is, and the attitude it projects amongst the people. Mckay uses the form of poetry to express how he, as a Jamaican immigrant, feels about America. He characterizes the bittersweet relationship between striving for the American dream, and being denied that dream due to racism. While the America we are meant to see is a beautiful land of opportunity, McKay see’s as an ugly, flawed, system that crushes the hopes and dreams of the African-American people.

This poem is written from the perspective of an African-American from a foreign country, who has come to America for the promise of equality, only to find out that at this time equality for blacks does not exist. It is written for fellow black men, in an effort to make them understand that the American dream is not something to abandon hope in, but something to fight for. The struggle of putting up with the racist mistreatment is evident even in the first four lines:

“Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,

And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,

Stealing my breath of life,

I will confess I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.” (McKay)

These lines express quite graphically that the relationship between young black immigrants and America, is what would be referred to as a “love/hate” relationship.

Though dealing with the situation is difficult, the poem goes on to express that going through this ordeal has only strengthened the resolve of the African American community. Lines 4-9 of this poem speak to toughness and resolve of the African American community in the fight to gain equality. McKay even goes as far ...

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...for equal rights. In some poems McKay even called for violent acts to change the laws, however, as an educated man, reason prevailed. As result he adopted religion, and his poetry, like himself became conflicted. Out of this confliction came some of the most powerful African American poetry in history. Claude McKay poured his soul onto to paper, and as a result, it seeps in to all who read it.

Works Cited

Kelly, Joseph. The Seagull Reader Poems Second Edition. New York: W.W Norton and Company, 2001.

McKay, Claude. The Poetry Foundation. 1921. 2 October 2011 .

Miller, Nelson. Poets Corner-Bookshelf. 1999. 2 October 2011 .

poets.org. Poets from the Academy of American Poets. 1997. 2 October 2011 .

In this essay, the author

  • Describes kelly, joseph, the seagull reader poems second edition.
  • Analyzes how claude mckay's poem, america, combines what america should be and what this country stands for with what it actually is, and the attitude it projects amongst the people.
  • Analyzes how mckay's lines express that the relationship between young black immigrants and america is what would be referred to as a "love/hate" relationship.
  • Analyzes how mckay uses the history of america to voice his outrage at the injustice against the african american community.
  • Analyzes how mckay's poem "darkly i gaze into the days ahead" is about time destroying the current foundation of america and starting a new foundation based on equality.
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