A.D AP Literature – Period 1
Poet: Claude McKay
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.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
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.
-Claude McKay (American 1890-1948)
The poem’s title ‘America’ presents the complications of McKay as a Jamaican immigrant living in America. The poem is a sonnet written in iambic pentameter consisting of three quatrains and a concluding couplet. In the first quatrain he introduces how oppressive America is to him while simultaneously expressing how he loves it. McKay personifies America as a mother: “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, /And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,/Stealing my breath of life, I will confess” (1-3). Mothers have a connotation of being in charge, as they are the guardians of all their children. His personification of America as a mother helps demonstrate how powerful America is and helps the reader understand the capabilities of its cruelty. The feeding of the “bread of bitterness” is used as a metaphor to demonstrate how harsh America is to McKay. If one is to imagine a tiger’s tooth being shoved in his or her throat, or perhaps one’s life force slowly being extracted, it would feel very painful and impossible to breathe. McKay also uses these as analogies to...
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