If We Must Die By Claude Mckay Essay

1463 Words Nov 13th, 2015 null Page
Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die” is a bold poem written during an eventful time for civil rights history, the Harlem Renaissance. During the Harlem Renaissance the African American community endured extreme racism and degradation. McKay wrote this poem with the intent to display his feelings as an immigrant who moved to America for a better life but instead was thrown into a situation where he was treated like an animal instead of a person. He chose to write this poem in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet, which ironically is a more common form for the writing of love poems and “if we must die” is nothing of the sort. The speaker says “if we must die, O let us nobly die” (McKay 5). Using an iambic pentameter, imagery and ending it with a couplet is a way to emphasize the theme of honor and pride that he wants to portray to the reader. The speaker is a sort of leader, calling out to others to overcome the “common foe” and live and die with meaning and bravery, encouraging the audience to go forth and fight what is holding them back.
During the Harlem Renaissance the death rates of African Americans greatly increased. There were problems with lynch mobs and discrimination in the south, causing many of them to migrate North, including McKay. Harlem was originally an exclusively white neighborhood, but the area was abandoned when the white upper and middle class moved further North. Fighting for the civil rights of African Americans during the New Negro movement was a way to…

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