If We Must Die by: Claude Mckay (Analysis Paper)

1087 Words Mar 9th, 2013 5 Pages
Shaymeon Robertson
AP English Literature

If We Must Die By: Claude McKay

If We Must Die, by Claude McKay is a sonnet written during the Harlem Renaissance period; a period where there was a flowering of African-American literature and art, (1919- mid 1930s). Though the Harlem Renaissance period was a time of thriving people and culture in the African-American community, prejudice was still very much active; something African-Americans knew first hand. There was still much discrimination put against them; something that this poem happens to exhibit. This poem is about dying with a purpose; not without honor, but rather one that even their enemies will bow down
…show more content…
The dogs know the hogs cannot escape; therefore it will be an easy kill. The speaker has much more respect and integrity for him and his race, then to simply die confined to a shameful spot, especially if someone has ‘chosen’ the way he will die.

Repetition and imagery are also crucial in explaining this message the narrator is presenting. The use of repetition helps the reader understand how important something is; by repeating a single word or sentence that constantly pops out, it will be viewed as important, or at least given attention to. McKay often writes “If we must die...” throughout the poem, a sentence that heightens the emotional impact of death. Everyone knows they have to die eventually, by repeating this line, the speaker is talking if or when they die. He is putting emphasis on how they will die; which is through a fight, or in any way that deems to be noble; “There precious blood will not be shed in vain.” Imagery only strengthens what repetition has been set to do; it intensifies the impact of the poet’s words; we begin to picture what they are saying, then simply reading what they are telling us they feel. Through phrases such as “precious blood”, “hungry dogs”, “open grave”, “pressed to the wall”, and “fighting back” McKay constantly allows us to vividly imagine exactly what he is saying, and how he feels.

Rhyme scheme reinforces the central

Related Documents