The Lynching Paper

The Lynching Paper - Andrew Soliman Professor Bendall...

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Andrew Soliman Professor Bendall ARLT100 2 November 2011 A Close Examination of “The Lynching” In the poem entitled “The Lynching”, Claude McKay employs specific content, rhythmic devices, and meter within the sonnet form in order to convey the ironic message that the lynchings intended to cleanse society were in fact its disease. He does so from the opening line of the poem through the diction used to describe the death of the man being hanged. Words such as “spirit”, “ascended”, and “heaven” all carry a religious and righteous connotation, suggesting that the man being hanged was a pious man, a martyr of sorts. This theme continues throughout the rest of the first four lines, in which McKay employs a plethora of words including “father”, “bosom”, and “sin”. This unique word choice serves to create a metaphor, which relates the man who has just been hung to Jesus, himself. This metaphor is also supported by the content of these lines, which suggest that through his death, this man is being accepted by his father for the remission of sins. In creating such a metaphor, McKay is explicitly stating that this man’s death was unjust, having committed no sin, and that those who hung him are akin to those who crucified Jesus Christ. After the first four lines, there is a shift in subject towards a star in the sky over the hanging, however the religious theme still remains. In these four lines, McKay highlights the hanging man’s unity with heaven. He does so by likening the man to the star with a metaphor. He paints a picture of the star hanging “pitifully o’er the swinging char”, like some sort of sick mirroring effect between the star and the body. The choice to juxtapose the words “bright” with
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“pitifully” when describing the star, comments on the hanging man’s condition as a person wrongfully killed, but condemned to the same fate. McKay also chooses to personify the word fate in these lines, saying that the man’s death was “Fate’s wild whim”. This literary technique suggests that fate may not be an abstract construct, but in fact those who hold power in society; in this case, the white men are fate. Fate’s wild whim suggests the madness and illogicality of the
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The Lynching Paper - Andrew Soliman Professor Bendall...

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