By Claude McKay
Per. 3 West
Claude McKay was born in 1889 in Jamaica. He emigrated to the US in 1912, and became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. When he first arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, he was shocked at the intense racial segregation he found. This is what had inspired him to write more poetry.
Sections A and C
The speaker of the poem,
, is the author, Claude McKay. He is delivering the poem from his point of view as an observer. This is from the time period of segregation, and racism of
African Americans in America. By knowing the time period this is in, you can better understand what the poem is referring to his love hate relationship with the United States. Tone
The tone in the beginning of the poem, is that of fear and danger. “Feeding me the bread of bitterness,” creates the image of punishment, and hatred. The line after, creates a tone of fear and danger, through the uses of words like throat, a very vulnerable part of the human body.
However, the tone changes throughout the poem. In the beginning it is evident that, “America” is unappealing, and bitter towards Claude, but as you read on he states, “her vigor flows like tides into my blood.” Meaning, America makes him a stronger, better person. What does not kill him, makes him stronger. Tension
The tension is that of the segregation of African Americans, and the conflict he has with
America. A great nation, but it treats him and his people poorly. This social conflict is not resolved in the poem itself, but Claude is okay with that, because the struggle he endures only makes him stronger. Context
This poem is written in the early 1920’s, and is about the segregation of African Americans.
The poem is fairly straightforward in that it is about Claude and his love, hate relationship with
America. It is a great country, but also is unbelievably cruel to him, and his people.
Structure, Stanzas & Lines
This poem is a sonnet. Sonnets have 14 lines with two rhyming stanzas and a rhyming couplet at the end. “America” does not deviate from this form at all. All the lines are of similar length, and the poem is one 14 line stanza. Rhyme Scheme
The poem has a rhyme scheme of ABABCDCDEFEFGG, and it is a consistent end rhyme throughout the entire poem. The rhyme scheme is there to emphasize certain words at the ends of each line.
Visuals and Sensory
The images he creates are both literal and figurative. Images of tigers ripping ones throat, and mistreatment are created, as well as images of strength, bravery and courage. Metaphors
The extended metaphor that runs throughout the poem, is the comparison of America to a real person. Claude personifies