“America” is a poem written by prominent Harlem Renaissance writer Claude McKay. In this poem we are told about life in America through the narrator’s point of view. It is through the narrator’ experience that McKay delivers his message, America will one day lose its greatness if it continues in its evil ways. Personification and diction is used to convey this message. Personification is used to give human-like qualities to America. Diction is used to explain how the hostility he/she experiences in America leads to the narrator’s ominous prediction of America’s future.
Throughout the poem the speaker refers to America as ‘her’. By doing this Claude McKay uses personification to give America the human-like qualities of a female. This is shown in lines 1-3: “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness/And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth/ stealing my breath of life”. In the first part of line 1 where it says, “Although she feeds me bread”, this implies that America is something like a mother figure. However, the fact that America feeds the narrator bread of bitterness, bites his/her throat, and steals his/her breath of life, it’s obvious that America does not treat the speaker well.
In line 11, it states, “Darkly I gaze into the days ahead”. The word ‘darkly’ implies that as a result of the hostility he/she experiences; the narrator has an ominous view of the future. When McKay says, “her might and granite wonders there” (line 12), it can be inferred that America’s global power and beautiful land are included in the narrators dark future. “Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand” (line 14). This line best illustrates McKay’s message that America will one day lose its greatness if it continues in its evil ways when you take into account the definition of the word sinking. Sinking means to be failing in health and strength. This led me to believe that line 14 means that America’s greatness and beautiful land that we cherish so much will eventually cease to exist.
I believe the treatment the narrator receives in “America” by Claude McKay, is based on his own experience during the Harlem Renaissance. The use of personification to represent America and clever word choice allow McKay to deliver his message. This message is that America will one day lose its greatness if it continues in its evil ways.