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"America" by Claude McKay

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Meghan Keller

on 28 April 2015

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Transcript of "America" by Claude McKay

"America" is a successful poem that communicates its theme by using personification, metaphors, and original diction.
Analysis: Claude McKay is describing his feelings toward America. Despite the difficulties that America shoves his way, he reluctantly loves his new home.

"Although she feeds me bread of bitterness
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth."
Claude McKay
Moved to Harlem, New York
literary voice for social justice of African Americans
notorious poet during Harlem Renaissance
The diction McKay uses with words like "bitterness", and "sinks into my throat" allows the reader a sense of disgust and despair. This is how he felt when he first moved to America because of the prejudice and racism. He personifies America as a woman, making it seem as if she is a mother, feeding him "bread of bitterness". He is somewhat dependent on America even when it continuously puts him down.
Meghan Keller
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.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
"Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth"
"stealing my breath of life" is a metaphor used to explain how America drains the life out of him, exhausting, and defeating his confidence. Yet, he relishes what tests his youth. His mixed feelings for America is what brings him to have a love/hate relationship with America.
"Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
McKay is signifying that the strength he holds that drives him on is from exactly what brings him down. This prospering country boldly gives a man strength while also being the source behind his rebellious struggle. According to Edumacation101.com, a literature analysis website, McKay uses these these lines to illustrate his stance against the injustice within America. He feels somewhat insignificant by himself, but yet somehow America grants him the fortitude to persevere.
The poem is made up of three quatrains with a concluding couplet and rhyme scheme. The structure is split into two main stanzas. The first stanza explains McKay's feelings of contempt and appreciation for America. The second presents a feeling of acceptance to the reader.
Throughout the poem, America is referred to as "her". By personifying the country as a woman, the author makes the poem more lively and relatable. This creates a better atmosphere for imagery.
"America by Claude Mckay Poetry Anlysis, an Essay Fiction. FictionPress." America by Claude McKay Poetry Analysis, an Essay Fiction/ FictionPress. Wild-Eyed Joker, 20 Feb. 2012. Web 15 Apr. 2015
Jeremy. "Frustrating Duality: An Explication of Claude McKay's 'America'" Edumacation 101. Edumacation101, 21 Dec. 2009. web. April, 2015.
"Claude McKay." Street Poets NYC. WordPress.com. Web. 22 Apr. 2015
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