What do you think of when you think of America? Chances are you think of this great amazing country, where you can do almost anything and live out your dream. However, the poem “America” by Claude McKay has a different view on what America is. This poem was written in the 1920’s during the Harlem Renaissance and is about the experiences of African Americans living in America at that time and how difficult it was to live there. The way McKay uses elements such as metaphors, similes, and personification explains the struggles of African Americans in the 1920’s. McKay’s poem uses 3 elements to explain the experiences of the african americans living in America: metaphors, similes and personification.
The first element that McKay uses in his poem to express the hardships African Americans had to go through is metaphors. In the poem he uses metaphors to show his audience that America isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. An example is in lines 1-3 where it says, “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,/ and sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,/ stealing my breath of life,” The metaphor here is when McKay says that America feeds him bread and sinks the tiger’s tooth into his throat stealing his breath. He is taking America and comparing it to a person who isn’t giving African Americans the best of what they could offer and then he continues by saying it’s like a tiger’s tooth in his throat steal his breath like America is slowly trying to kill him so he cannot continue living. This is a way McKay uses metaphors to show how hard it was for african americans to live in America.
The second element the author uses for his explanation of the trials the African Americans faced in America is similes. McKay uses the similes in his poem to so say that even though America may treat African Americans badly, it gives him strength to continue on anyway. An example is in lines 5-6 where it says, “Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,/ Giving me strength erect against her hate.” Here McKay uses the word “like” to compare americas vigor to the the blood inside his body which gives him strength to continue on. McKay uses similes to show the audience what america was like.
The last element that McKay uses in his poem America is personification. McKay uses personification throughout the poem and uses it in almost every line. He uses it to make the reader feel like America is a person to make it more relatable. An example is in lines 5-7 it says, “her vigor flows like tides into my blood,/ Giving me strength erect against her hate,/ Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.” Here when McKay says “her” he is referring to America as “her.” America obviously isnt a human, so he is trying to make America more relatable by giving it human traits. This is a great example of how McKay is trying to tell us what America was like for African Americans.
In conclusion, McKay’s poem uses 3 elements to explain the experiences of the african americans living in america. The first element is metaphor, which he uses to tell us that America isn’t such a great place. The second element is simile. He uses this to tell us that even if American is mean to him he still finds the strength to carry on. The last element is personification. McKay uses this the make America more relatable to the audience by making it sound as if it were a person. So after hearing about what america was like in the 1920’s to the African Americans, do you still think of the same thing when you think of America.
Probst, Robert E., and Claude McKay. Elements of literature literature of the United States, with Literature of the Americas. Austin, [Tex.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2000. Print.