America: A Nation in a Sonnet Essay

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Adopting formalities from the 16th century and intertwining them with formalities recognized today, Claude McKay‟s poem entitled America explicates passionate feelings, both positive and negative, toward the United States of America during the New Negro Movement in the 1920‟s and 1930‟s. America was originally published in 1921: a very exciting time for many Americans as the roaring twenties were coming into full swing and society was celebrating the decade of carefree decadence. However, there was a dark underbelly to America as well at the time. Blacks in the South, where McKay resided after emigrating from Jamaica, were being heavily discriminated against and Jim Crow‟s ugly hands were clutched firmly around many of the supposed …show more content…
The speaker goes on to state that America is draining the life from his body through her unfair treatment of blacks, but then mentions that although she is a cultured hell, he still loves the fact that America challenges him. Apparently, it seems as if McKay relishes the challenges, both physical and intellectual, that the American society presents him during this time period. In the next three lines, McKay explains the speaker‟s reasons for loving America so in a more positive tone, “Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, / Giving me strength erect against her hate / Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood” (Maxwell, 23). Interestingly, the speaker highly recognizes America as the initial country that fuels his life, but also rebelling against the provider of that strength and using it to stand up against the racial hate that was prevalent during this time period in America. He/She even stands in a futile attempt to stop her massive waves of dominance and allowing it to flounce him, but at the same time, proving his unmovable stance against her. The speaker then moves into a tone of solemn boldness: “Yet as a rebel fronts a king of state, / I stand with her walls with not a shred / of terror, malice, not a word of jeer”

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