America Claude Mckay Analysis: One of the most looked up to writers of the Harlem Renaissance, Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay, was a Jamaican writer. On September 15, 1889, he was born in Sunny Ville, in the Clarendon Hills of Jamaica. In the initial years of the Harlem Renaissance, he published “Spring in New Hampshire” (1920) and “Harlem Shadows” (1922) and consequently, McKay emerged as one of its significant poets.
At age 22, McKay joined the Constabulary Force in Spanish Town, and a year later, he published the “Jamaica Constab Ballads and Songs of Jamaica”. Later that year, McKay migrated to the United States, where he attended Kansas State University.
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Claude McKay wrote three novels, namely “Home to Harlem” (1929), “Banjo” (1929), and “Banana Bottom” (1932). A collection of short stories titled “Ginger town“ was published in 1932.
Although an atheist most of his life, McKay joined the Catholic Church in 1944. Claude McKay died four years later in Chicago, on May 22, 1948, at 59.
Summary of America Claude Mckay Analysis
The poem “America” was first published in 1919.
The poem “America” brings forward the merging realizations that the poet had spent living in America. America at that time was not a very good place for Black Americans to reside in. They were oppressed and looked down upon.
The treatment vested upon the Black Americans was unfair and harsh in all terms. This poem embodies the inner thoughts of the poet. The poem bring brings forward the ambitions of the black community who can only dream about an oppression-free future.
The voices of the black Americans were never heard and always suppressed. The poem’s main emphasis is on the black struggle and how the brutalities of oppression had become part and parcel of their lives. It also embarks upon how hard their life is and the strength needed to persevere and survive in the conditions they are forced to reside in.
The poet questions why should black Americans not enjoy the essence of freedom? In the poem’s entire course, the speaker has a love-hate relationship with America; this is similar to many blacks’ position. The poet ultimately loses all hopes for his country and lives on the edge of resignation.
The initial four lines portray the speaker’s “love” for this “cultured hell,” despite the oppression and brutalities America imposes on him. The following six lines continue to develop this relationship based on the very horns of a dilemma, describing how America’s “vigour” enigmatically encourages the poet against America’s “hate.” The speaker equates himself to a rebel facing a king but says that he holds no ill-will towards America.
The poem’s final four lines present a dismal and doleful vision of America’s disintegration in the future, taking on an extramundane perspective that sees this once-powerful empire slowly sinking into the sands under the “unerring” hand of Time.
Structure of America Claude Mckay Analysis
The rhyme pattern followed in this poem is an “ABABABABABABCC”. These patterns are similar to a sonnet rhyme scheme by Shakespeare. This rhyme scheme is present in many of Claude McKay’s poetry. This rhyming scheme acts as a tool to emphasize the meaning and the creativity used by the author.
The sonnet can be divided up in terms of rhyme into one final couplet and three quatrains and. One can also break it syntactically and semantically into two mirroring halves (4+3 and 3+4) that divide and reflect each other after the 7th line.
Poetic Techniques in America Claude Mckay Analysis
There have been nay poetic techniques used in the entire course of the poem.
The most frequently used technique is an oxymoron. An oxymoron is a figure of speech where two words of contradicting meaning and essence are paired. Phrases like” ‘cultured hell” is an example of an oxymoron.
A metaphor is a figure of speech where one refers to one thing by mentioning it to another. For example, “tiger’s tooth”, “bread of bitterness” are metaphors.
A simile is the speech figure where two entities are compared using words such as “like” and “as”. The phrases like “her bigness sweep my being like a flood” and “as a rebel front, a king in the state” are examples of simile.
The poet has used personification. The whole poem is based on the personification of America. The poet has referred to America as “she” in the first line of the poem.
America Claude Mckay Analysis
“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!”
The poet personifies America and refers to her as “she”, which puts forward a motherly interpretation of America’s very feminization. Just like a mother ensures her child’s nourishment, here America feeds her child- but with “bread of bitterness”, which is a strong implication of the harsh treatment that the people of the poet’s community had to go through. The metaphor “tiger’s throat” focuses on the various hardships and oppressions which the black Americans have to face daily.
Despite the ill-treatment and idea of inequality prevalent at that Time, the poet does not hesitate to declare his country’s love. The phrase “I will confess” portrays the declaration of love to be forced and not spontaneous. This love portrays the poet as somewhat of a stoic character who sees the ill-treatment vested on them as a test model.
The extent of this cruelty is brought to light when the poet refers to America as “hell”. Although America exploits the poet, he not only fights back but also draws a sense of inspiration from it.
“Her vigour 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.”
This section brings forward the speaker’s resistance against all the misery and suffering mated on him. Words like “vigour” and “bigness” portray America on a positive note.
Here, the vigour supports her citizens with the zeal to survive even under the harshest circumstances subjected to them by herself. The country’s power has been equated to the power of nature by the use of phrases like “tides”.
Although the poet understands it the worst place to reside for his community’s people, he presents himself as a rebel in front of a king. However, instead of a rebel’s idea, he does not hold a grudge against his antagonist, i.e., America.
“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.”
The final lines start with the word “Darkly”, which gives insight into the poet’s gloomy and grim prophecy about America’s future state. He suggests that the beautiful things like “might and granite wonders” that are the very essence of America have high possibilities of fading away in the “Time’s unerring hand”.
The poet finds no other alternative to the downfall of the country. He finds it to be the inevitable end to America’s own internal contradictions and the impermanence of worldly “might.”
What is the meaning of the poem America by Claude McKay?
‘America’ by Claude McKay balances ideas of loving and hating the United States. McKay explores the good parts of the country, the strength and vigor it contains as well as the bad. Yet, he also comments on the ‘bitterness’, violence, and corruption the country is known for.
What is Claude McKay’s perspective of America?
While many of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance were born and raised in the U.S., McKay had a different perspective. His poems talk about America with a view that mixed love and hate, pain and pleasure. He was able to see America for all of its qualities, good and bad, because he had chosen America as his home.
How does the speaker feel about America?
The speaker has a love-hate relationship with America, so he chooses to be optimistic, but also realistic about America. The speaker loves America and chooses not to focus on those things that he does not like and cannot change. Read the following lines from the poem.
What is the tone of the poem America by Claude McKay?
The poem stared off as bitter and sad then the tone changed to hope and love that he has for America. He was born in sunny vile, Jamaica and he is known for his novels and poems. He also played a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance.