America | Study Guide

Claude McKay

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Course Hero. "America Study Guide." Course Hero. 19 July 2019. Web. 25 July 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/America/>.

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Course Hero. (2019, July 19). America Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/America/

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Course Hero. "America Study Guide." July 19, 2019. Accessed July 25, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/America/.

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Course Hero, "America Study Guide," July 19, 2019, accessed July 25, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/America/.

America | Narrative Voice

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The poem uses the first-person perspective to show the speaker in direct relationship with America. He personifies America as a woman to suggest a relationship with his country that is so powerful and intimate that it is almost sexual. Words such as feeds and flows are associated with femininity, while the phrases "strength erect" and "rebel front[ing] a king" suggest masculinity. The relationship is, however, a toxic one, as the man experiences physical and emotional harm. It is also a doomed one. By the end of the poem, the "I" that is threatened and overpowered by "her" sees a future where "her might" is buried in the sand.

McKay's diction, or choice of words, further heightens the tensions inherent in the poem. By using conjunctions such as although and yet, McKay piques the reader's curiosity about the debate the speaker is waging within himself. Pairing words such as bread and bitterness or cultured and hell also creates tension.

With the introduction of the pronoun I at the end of the third line, the images no longer describe America but rather portray the speaker as he stands "within her walls." The speaker now gains some objectivity and is able to gaze into the future, and the vision he sees of the country he both loves and hates is grim. Readers might find hope, however, in the existence of the poem itself as a reminder that there is still time for rebels and prophets to change America's course.

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