America By Claude Mckay Analysis


Claude Mckay was a Jamaican-American author and poet. He wrote America, a sonnet about his disillusionment with the United States, in 1919. America is a sonnet that reflects on McKay’s experience as a black person in America. The poem highlights the tension between the American dream and the reality of racism and discrimination that black people face.

McKay uses America to express his anger and frustration at the country’s hypocrisy. He asks America “how sweet are your kisses” when America has “stolen” black people from their homes and subjected them to violence and oppression. America is not the land of opportunity for all, as it claims to be. McKay’s poem exposes the ugly truth of America’s treatment of black people.

Claude McKay was a poet during the Harlem Renaissance who saw himself as a spokesman for his people. A poet expressing the feelings of African American youth and the black community without having one. “America” by Claude McKay is a sonnet that does not explore love’s meaning in the traditional manner, but rather it uses the form of a sonnet to convey rage and anger felt by African Americans at that time.

America is a country that prospered off the backs of slaves, and even after slavery was abolished, America continued to treat African Americans unfairly. Claude McKay’s America sonnet speaks to this treatment, and the lack of opportunity for African Americans in America.

Claude McKay’s America sonnet has fourteen lines like a traditional sonnet, however the rhyme scheme is AABBCCDD EEFFGG. The first quatrain (lines 1-4) describes America as a land that used to belong to the Native Americans, before it was stolen from them.

The second quatrain (lines 5-8) compares America to a mistress who has betrayed her lover. In the third quatrain (lines 9-12), McKay talks about how America has changed since it was founded, and how it is no longer the land of opportunity that it once was. The final couplet (lines 13-14) is a message of hope, despite all the anger and frustration that McKay feels.

“America” by Claude McKay is an effective sonnet because it uses the traditional form to express the anger and frustration that African Americans were feeling during that time period. America had betrayed its promises of equality, and Claude McKay’s America sonnet speaks to this betrayal.

A sonnet is one of the most ancient styles of poetry, and it’s a classic. It adheres to a set of standards: fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and end-rhyme scheme, which make up a poem that “America” does not stick to strictly. Even though the poem follows most of the sonnet conventions, Claude McKay makes an instrumental choice in violating one.

America is not about America the country, but America the ideal. This poem is about how America should be, and how it’s not living up to its potential. America should be a land of opportunity, but it’s not. America should be a land where all men are created equal, but it’s not. Claude McKay points out the flaws in America and challenges the reader to do something about it.

Claude McKay was born in Jamaica in 1889 and emigrated to America in 1912. He was a part of the Harlem Renaissance and wrote many poems about America and its ideals. “America” was first published in the Liberator in November 1919. America is not about America the country, but America the ideal.

This poem is about how America should be, and how it’s not living up to its potential. America should be a land of opportunity, but it’s not. America should be a land where all men are created equal, but it’s not. Claude McKay points out the flaws in America and challenges the reader to do something about it.

The title of the poem, “America” can be read two ways. It can either be about America the country or America the ideal. The poem could be about both, but Claude McKay makes it clear that the poem is about America the ideal.

This poem is not the case with this sonnet. The sonnet is utilized by McKay to convey the emotions of African Americans who are experiencing racism in America. Despite the fact that African Americans love America, they also feel hatred for it to some extent. For example, McKay states, “I adore this sophisticated hell that challenges my youth?” Then he adds an oxymoron (“cultured hell”), implying the conflicting feelings experienced by African Americans because they can’t fully love America yet can’t entirely hate it either.

McKay also uses America to symbolize the hope for a better future that the African Americans have. In America by Claude McKay, the speaker expresses both love and hate for America. He talks about how America is a “cultured hell” that tests his youth. However, America also symbolizes the hope for a better future that the African Americans have.

The pain and pleasure his people are feeling is also depicted by the author. The phrase “she gives me bread of bitterness,/ And sinks her tiger’s tooth into my throat,” for example, depicts their suffering. His people are constantly subjected to prejudice and do not have the liberty to express themselves freely.

America is also constantly putting them in danger, as seen when McKay writes America “wakes me with the smell of blood.” America is not a safe place for McKay and his people, and yet they continue to fight for their rights. America may be full of pain and suffering, but McKay still loves her “with love that wipes out years of wrong.” He recognizes that America has the potential to be great, but she has not reached her full potential yet. Claude McKay’s America is a complex poem that captures the beauty and pain of America through the eyes of a black man.

To be alive yet not accepted, to have our voices stolen, screaming but never being heard. He goes on to say how, despite America being “hell,” it still gives his people “vigor…/Giving [them] courage erect against her hatred,” and that they are filled with “her vitality…”

America is a difficult nation for his people to live in, yet it does not leave them unprotected. It also offers them strength and bravery to combat the injustices they face, after all, America is recognized for its promise of freedom. He closes by stating that he has no “terror, hatred, or insult” towards the United States. In the end, despite everything that has happened to him and his people, America remains their homeland.

Claude Mckay’s America is a sonnet that tells of the pain and suffering his people go through in America but also of the hope and courage America gives them. America by Claude McKay is a sonnet that discusses the complicated relationship between the speaker and America. The speaker begins by talking about how America is a “hell” for his people, with the pain of living not being accepted and having their voices taken away. In spite of this, America still fills them with “her vigor…/Giving us strength erect against her hate.”


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