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The theme of oppression in claude mckays poem america

But having preserved his vision as poet and his status as a human being, he can transcend bitterness. His human pity was the foundation that made all this possible.

Claude McKay

The son of peasant farmers, he was infused with racial pride and a great sense of his African heritage. His early literary interests, though, were in English poetry. It was Jekyll who advised aspiring poet McKay to cease mimicking the English poets and begin producing verse in Jamaican dialect. But he studied there only briefly before leaving to work as a constable in the Jamaican capital, Kingston.

  1. One feels disinclined to believe that the medium which he chose was too small, or too large for his message. But having preserved his vision as poet and his status as a human being, he can transcend bitterness.
  2. Jake represents, in rather overt fashion, the instinctual aspect of the individual, and his ability to remain true to his feelings enables him to find happiness with a former prostitute, Felice.
  3. McKay quickly followed it with Banjo. Critic McLeod offers a more recent evaluation of the work, the writing of which was based as much on scholarly inquiry as on personal observation, as McKay was absent from the country for a good deal of the period covered.
  4. McKay used this poem, which symbolically presents the degradation of the entire black race, as the title for a subsequent collection. By the late 1930s McKay had developed a keen interest in Catholicism.
  5. American culture is founded on racism and oppression, but also values freedom and equality, allowing the oppressed to fight back and win against inequality.

In Kingston he experienced and encountered extensive racism, probably for the first time in his life. His native Sunny Ville was predominantly populated by blacks, but in substantially white Kingston blacks were considered inferior and capable of only menial tasks. In these two volumes McKay portrays opposing aspects of black life in Jamaica. Constab Ballads, however, presents a substantially bleaker perspective on the plight of Jamaican blacks and contains several poems explicitly critical of life in urban Kingston.

Writing in The Negro Novel in America, Robert Bone noted the differing sentiments of the two collections, but he also contended that the volumes share a sense of directness and refreshing candor.

  1. I chose this poem because I relate to it so much; I truly love and hate this country. Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, And see her might and granite wonders there, Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand, Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
  2. The book is considered unreliable as material for his autobiography because, for example, in it McKay denies his membership in the communist party, as McLeod points out. Home to Harlem—with its sordid, occasionally harrowing scenes of ghetto life—proved extremely popular, and it gained recognition as the first commercially successful novel by a black writer.
  3. He capitalized on his acclaim by redoubling his efforts on behalf of blacks and laborers.
  4. His native Sunny Ville was predominantly populated by blacks, but in substantially white Kingston blacks were considered inferior and capable of only menial tasks.

He used the money to finance a trip to America, and in 1912 he arrived in South Carolina. He then traveled to Alabama and enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute, where he studied for approximately two months before transferring to Kansas State College.

In 1914 he left school entirely for New York City and worked various menial jobs. A few years later McKay befriended Max Eastman, communist sympathizer and editor of the magazine Liberator.

  • Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, Giving me strength erect against her hate;
  • He used the money to finance a trip to America, and in 1912 he arrived in South Carolina.

McKay used this poem, which symbolically presents the degradation of the entire black race, as the title for a subsequent collection. McKay returned to the United States in 1921 and involved himself in various social causes. The next year he published Harlem Shadows, a collection from previous volumes and periodicals publications. He capitalized on his acclaim by redoubling his efforts on behalf of blacks and laborers: His infection eventually necessitated his hospitalization, but after recovering he resumed traveling, and for the next eleven years he toured Europe and portions of northern Africa.

During this period he also published three novels and a short story collection.

The first novel, Home to Harlem, may be his most recognized title. Published in 1928, it concerns a black soldier—Jake—who abruptly abandons his military duties and returns home to Harlem. Jake represents, in rather overt fashion, the instinctual aspect of the individual, and his ability to remain true to his feelings enables him to find happiness with a former prostitute, Felice.

His sense of bleakness derives largely from his intellectualized perspective, and it eventually compels him to leave alien, racist America for his homeland of Haiti. McLeod in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Home to Harlem—with its sordid, occasionally harrowing scenes of ghetto life—proved extremely popular, and it gained recognition as the first commercially successful novel by a black writer.

McKay quickly followed it with Banjo: A Story without a Plot, a novel about a black vagabond living in the French port of Marseilles. Ray, the intellectual from Home to Harlem, also appears in Banjo.

  • Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood;
  • The next year he published Harlem Shadows, a collection from previous volumes and periodicals publications.

His plight is that of many struggling artists who are compelled by social circumstances to support themselves with conventional employment. Both Banjo and Ray are perpetually dissatisfied and disturbed by their limited roles in white society, and by the end of the novel the men are prepared to depart from Marseilles.

Banana Bottom recounts the experiences of a Jamaican peasant girl, Bita, who is adopted by white missionaries after suffering a rape. The prospective groom is exposed as a sexual aberrant, whereupon Bita flees white society.

She eventually marries a drayman, Jubban, and raises their child in an idealized peasant Jamaican environment. Once back in Harlem he began an autobiographical work, A Long Way from Home, in which he related his own problems as a black individual in a white society.

The book is considered unreliable as material for his autobiography because, for example, in it McKay denies his membership in the communist party, as McLeod points out.

By the late 1930s McKay had developed a keen interest in Catholicism. His newfound religious interest, together with his observations and experiences at the Friendship House, inspired his essay collection, Harlem: Negro Metropolis, which offers an account of the black community in Harlem during the 1920s and 1930s.

Negro Metropolis failed to spark much interest from a reading public that was a tiring of literature by and about blacks. Critic McLeod offers a more recent evaluation of the work, the writing of which was based as much on scholarly inquiry as on personal observation, as McKay was absent from the country for a good deal of the period covered: By the mid-1940s his health had deteriorated.

He endured several illnesses throughout his last years and eventually died of heart failure in May 1948. Recently, however, McKay has gained recognition for his intense commitment to expressing the predicament of his fellow blacks, and he is now admired for devoting his art and life to social protest.

One feels disinclined to believe that the medium which he chose was too small, or too large for his message. He has been heard.

McLeod concluded his essay in Dictionary of Literary Biography with the following accolades: