09 October 2018
Claude McKay was the initial proactive poet in the Harlem Renaissance Era. He significantly condemned racism which was inspired by his father who was a peasant. His father narrated about the colonial period and African American slavery. This rejuvenated his energy in poetry. The main theme of Claude McKay was to address racism which at that time was the most significant brought about by contention. The literary skills used in writing these poems was the main reason as to why it fetched quite an enormous number of readers even currently. The literary skills entail; mood, auditory and gustatory imagery, simile and personification. (McKay 1002)
Imagery is the representation of discrete ideas and situations into physical images that can be seen and understood. In the works of McKay, Visual and Gustatory imagery is evident. When he talks of “…an inglorious spot” in his poem “If We Must Die”, he illustrates the point to where the African Americans were. According to McKay, this is not a situation or position that he would wish for his fellow black folks. It is a filthy “pit” that they should all be free from, since they are haunted and oppressed at that “pit”.
He also uses gustatory imagery in his poem “America”. When he says “she feeds me bread of bitterness” it arouses the readers’ sense of taste. “Bitterness of bread” represents food, which is a basic necessity of life since we all have to eat to survive. McKay as the persona gives a clear picture of how African Americans went through hard time during the Harlem Renaissance Era and for survival. They had to work as peasants and slaves for the Caucasian people. Their opinions were always disregarded and had no place in the American society (McKay 1006)
Simile is another expressive style that McKay uses. It is a literary word that gives comparable similarities between two or more things. In his work, “If We Must to Die,” he suggests to his fellow African Americans that they should at least do something to address their concerns for freedom. He continues to say that they should not just die “…like hogs” to express the simile. He uses the word “hog” to illustrate how discrete the unhuman Americans thought of them. This simile awakened their moral to fight back. The effect of the simile was to show the society that they were worthier than they presumed to be. This alerted them not to sit back as slaves without making their desires for autonomy even death is result. (McKay 1005)
He calls the racists “hungering dogs that make them mock at their accursed lot” (McKay 1005). He gives human abilities to dogs, which is personification. This literary work gives a clear illustration of the magnitude of the racist’s mockery to the African American anti-racism activists. The effort was to bring a nation free from discrimination under the white man’s mockery.
By and large, Claude McKay’s poems provoked many and mobilized a racially conscious society. He had hopes and dreams for a brighter integrated country with both Caucasians and African Americans. His art is still vivid in modern society.