Thursday, February 27, 2014

If We Must Die by Claude McKay

commentary no.6

IF WE MUST DIE is a very powerful piece. The feeling that resonates throughout the poem is the conflict between whites and blacks. Since the poem was written in 1919, it correlates with the race riots that occurred at that particular time in several cities throughout the United States.
The race riots were obviously white people attacking black neighborhoods, and so forth. Many blacks were murdered and the mass lynchings stretched from city to city. Another example that supports the race riot theory is the mention of “mad and hungry dogs” in line three. The usage of the phrase is appropriate, for history verifies that dogs were used to attack, subdue, frighten, and murder blacks.
It seems as if he wants to be killed in a kind manner, rather than being tortured and dying terribly, supported by lines one and five. He uses the phrase “if we must die” a couple of times, indicating that he doesn’t want to be killed horribly. For that reason, furious action must be taken and that action is to strike back.

If We Must Die

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Commentary no.5

This is a well written poem in which McKay uses the title The White House ironically. The title has no reference to the actual white house itself, but it change the whole symbolic meaning and intent of the poem, making it appear as if the burning ambition of the black malcontent was to enter white houses in general. In the Harlem Renaissance., McKay expresses his thorough discontent with the Unites States segregation. In this poem he specifically singles out American big-industry. The poet  denounced the racial hypocrisy of American white people during that time period.  McKay advocates behaving with poise and composure in the face of segregation and prejudice. He shows this mentality through the first line in the poem by telling the reader that his persona stands by the shut door with a “tightened face.” He shows disgust towards white-America’s hypocrisy, employs flame imagery, and promotes a very resilient image of the black man in Africa.

The White House

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

            - Claude McKay

America by Claude McKay

Commentary no. 4

Off the top the poem "America" is a sonnet. It has three quadrants with a concluding couplet and a perfect rhyming scheme. McKay incorporates a mixture of personification with figurative language to paint a more diverse picture. If you take the first 4 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,” you can see that these are all feelings from motherly characteristics. Not only does comparing America to a mother help the reader relate better to the speaker, but it shows what America is and how it appears.  The end of the poem closes, “Darkly I gaze into the days ahead”, “Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.” the speaker exerts his passionate feelings both positively and negatively toward America. The 1920s were a time of excitement, but also a time of struggle. This poem clearly shows both sides during the Harlem Renaissance