In the Poem, “America”, written by Claude McKay, the speaker exerts his passionate feelings both positively and negatively toward America. The 1920s were a time of excitement, but also a time of struggle. This poem clearly shows both sides during the Harlem Renaissance.
“America” meets the standard of an original sonnet form. It contains three quatrains with a concluding couplet and a perfect rhyming scheme. However, he incorporates a mixture of personification with figurative language to paint a more diverse picture. The poem is also a perfect example of Iambic Parameter, every other syllable holds emphasis making the poem read smoothly.
The poem is split into two main stanzas. The beginning of the poem seems to be accusing “America” due to the harsh and negative choice in diction: “she feeds me bread of bitterness” and “Stealing my breath of life.” Stealing and bitterness give off a vibe of disgust and painfulness. However, at the same time the speaker seems to appreciate America too. “I love this culture hell that tests my youth!” My interpretation of this line is that although all these things come toward America, it is just another battle it must face. To me, everything America has to deal with can be seen as negative, but deserves credit for how it handles itself in the end.
This poem has an amazing use of personification because the entire time the subject represents and plays America. America is described in a big metaphor. If you take the first 4 lines, “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth, Stealing my breath of life, I will confess, I love this cultured hell that tests my youth,” you can see that these are all feelings evoked from motherly characteristics. Not only does comparing America to a mother help the reader relate better to the speaker, but it shows what America is and how it appears.
The end of the poem further shows that the future of America may be dark, “Darly I gaze into the days ahead”, but yet has an appreciation for all that “America” truly is. It closes, “Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.”