Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows Essay

Claude McKay's Harlem Shadows Essay

Length: 1384 words (4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Claude McKay's "Harlem Shadows"

During the Harlem Renaissance, the black body was considered exotic and the "flavor" of the week. Society had an obsession towards black women, in general, blackness. However, the white race wanted to listen to their music, mingle with the women, and enjoy the other finer luxuries that the black society could afford. Even the art was captured by this idea of the exotic and contentment in being "black." The masquerade began as members of the white race tried to pass as black and during that experience gain some satisfaction from their own lost and confused existence.

     Claude McKay was unique in style and tone, yet still followed the other artists by topic. The exotic in Claude McKay's "Harlem Shadows" is apparent. McKay is developing the exotic throughout the text and saying that black exoticism is the only way that Africans can survive in America. McKay wants the African American to embrace their bodies, but there is an element of pity to the work. He feels that embracing the exotic in your own body is the way that the black person can become African American. Ignoring the culture fails to guide black Americans to discovering his or her identity. As a Harlem Renaissance writer, Claude McKay tried to guide African Americans to accept the African culture along with the exotic characteristics involved in it.

     In "Harlem Shadows", McKay tries to express how a black woman survives everyday life in America. He writes, "I see the shapes of girls who pass/ to bend and barter at desires call." McKay identifies with the black desires that these women can not avoid. It is in their nature to turn and exchange their bodies. However, the most important reference McKay makes is the use of the word barter. The dictionary meaning of bartering is to exchange services without the exchange of money. These girls are not receiving money for each desire they fulfill. For the girls to continue satisfying desires without receiving anything in return, McKay implies they are enjoying the act. Also, that these woman need to complete these desires to survive. Another prominent aspect of the line is that McKay uses the term girls instead of women. Thus proving that even from an immature age, black females are not able to suppress their exotic nature and desires. Therefore, McKay is encouraging women to embrace their own African roots, n...

... middle of paper ..., "Follow my example." That is how the girls can save the culture and realize their identity. He wants the girls to find a better way to exhibit their sexual tendencies and embrace the culture. The girls nightly behavior is shameful and not the way to living the culture.

     Throughout "Harlem Shadows," McKay is telling the young girls to express their natural sexuality, but to find a different way. The behavior that they are displaying is more disgraceful and should not be considered Black culture. McKay shows how the girls have lost their innocence and spread the black culture to the white race, yet McKay implies that their idea of the culture is tainted as the girls themselves are. Claude McKay makes reference to his example being the girl's saving grace to the true black culture and each girl's true identity.

     However, in his message McKay has to make the girls exoticized and objectified before he can explain the way to change and the ultimate survival. By objectifying the girl's McKay attaches his poem along with the rest of the writers at the time. He is writing the same topic of exoticism, black culture, and resuscitation from a lost and confused existence.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Claude McKay's Prominent Position in the Harlem Renaissance Essay examples

- ... His native Sunny Ville was popular by blacks, but in large white Kingston blacks were considered lower and capable of only menial tasks. McKay quickly grew disgusted with the city's society, and within one year he returned home to Sunny Ville. During his brief stays in Brown's Town and Kingston McKay continued writing poetry, and once back in Sunny Ville, with Jekyll's encouragement, he published the Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads in London in 1912. In these two volumes McKay portrays opposing aspects of black life in Jamaica....   [tags: poetry, jamaica, race]

Powerful Essays
914 words (2.6 pages)

America, by Claude McKay Essay

- 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....   [tags: Liberty, Justice, Poetic Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1105 words (3.2 pages)

Claude McKay & Jean Toomer Essay

- Claude McKay was born on September 15th 1890, in the West Indian island of Jamaica. He was the youngest of eleven children. At the age of ten, he wrote a rhyme of acrostic for an elementary-school gala. He then changed his style and mixed West Indian folk songs with church hymns. At the age of seventeen he met a gentlemen named Walter Jekyll, who encouraged him to write in his native dialect. Jekyll introduced him to a new world of literature. McKay soon left Jamaica and would never return to his homeland....   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
692 words (2 pages)

Essay on Claude McKay

- Claude McKay Claude McKay was one of the most influential figures in twentieth-century African American literature. He was known world wide from the West Indies to the United States to Africa all the way to his birth place Jamaica. When mentioning controversial writers, Claude McKay comes to mind. He was first of many African American writers who would become known for speaking their minds through literature during the early 1900's....   [tags: African American Literature]

Free Essays
1212 words (3.5 pages)

Claude McKay's If We Must Die Essay

- Claude McKay's If We Must Die One of the most influential writers of the Harlem Renaissance was Jamaican born Claude McKay, who was a political activist, a novelist, an essayist and a poet. Claude McKay was aware of how to keep his name consistently in mainstream culture by writing for that audience. Although in McKay’s arsenal he possessed powerful poems. The book that included such revolutionary poetry is Harlem Shadows. His 1922 book of poems, Harlem Shadows, Barros acknowledged that this poem was said by many to have inaugurated the Harlem Renaissance....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Powerful Essays
1267 words (3.6 pages)

Journey to the Harlem Renaissance Essay

- Journey to the Harlem Renaissance As America moves into a more cultural and diversified era, more people are taking the time to learn about the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance was the foremost form of freedom for African Americans. It showed blacks that they were becoming equals in American society. The talents of African Americans soared in art, music, literature and especially poetry. The main writers embodying the Harlem Renaissance were Claude McKay, Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen....   [tags: Harlem Renaissance African Americans Essays]

Powerful Essays
1272 words (3.6 pages)

The Harlem Renaissance Essay

-      The Harlem Renaissance Poets consist of: James Weldon Johnson, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Jean (Eugene) Toomer, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown, Robert Hayden, and Gwendolyn Brooks. These eight poets contributed to modern day poetry in three ways. One: they all wrote marvelous poems that inspired our poets of modern times. Two: they contributed to literature to let us know what went on in there times, and how much we now have changed. And last but not least they all have written poems that people can sit down and relate to and what people are writing about and take time out to let the people of their families know that they were living in those times....   [tags: The Black Intelligencia]

Powerful Essays
1518 words (4.3 pages)

The Harlem Renaissance: A Black Cultural Revolution Essay

- The Harlem Renaissance- A Black Cultural Revolution James Weldon Johnson once said that "Harlem is indeed the great Mecca for the sight-seer; the pleasure seeker, the curious, the adventurous, the enterprising, the ambitious and the talented of the whole Negro world."("Harlem Renaissance") When one thinks of the Harlem Renaissance, one thinks of the great explosion of creativity bursting from the talented minds of African-Americans in the 1920s. Although principally thought of as an African-American literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance's influence extended through every form of culture: art, dance, music, theatre, literature, history, and politics....   [tags: American History]

Powerful Essays
1962 words (5.6 pages)

The Harlem Renaissance: The New Negro Movement Essay

- The Harlem Renaissance, also known as “The New Negro Movement” was a cultural movement that spanned the1920’s. The Harlem Renaissance was a defining moment in African American literature causing an outburst of creative activity in black writers and artists in New York City. The Harlem Renaissance was influenced by the migration of African Americans from the South seeking better opportunities for themselves. A black man named Charles Spurgeon Johnson who was the editor for the National Urban League magazine encouraged and supported black writers and artists who were part of the Harlem Renaissance....   [tags: cultural movement, african american literature]

Powerful Essays
950 words (2.7 pages)

The Harlem Renaissance Essay

- Harlem Renaissance was an African American cultural movement of the 1920s and early 1930s that was centered in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City. Also known as the New Negro movement, the New Negro Renaissance, and the Negro Renaissance, the movement emerged toward the end of World War I in 1918, blossomed in the mid- to late 1920s, and then faded in the mid-1930s. The Harlem Renaissance marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics took African American literature seriously and that African American literature and arts attracted significant attention from the nation at large....   [tags: American History]

Free Essays
1815 words (5.2 pages)