The poem starts with McKays somewhat cheerful description of luscious tropical fruits: Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root, / Cocoa in pods and alligator pears, (lines 1-2). At this point, the reader is not sure what path this poem will take. Lines 5 and 6, Set in the window, bringing memories/ Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills, cause the reader to detect a sense of melancholy in McKays words. These two lines along with line 7, And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies, combine to create an idyllic image of his lost paradise. This image contrasts heavily with his present surroundings in New York City. It becomes clear in lines 9 and 10, My eyes grew dim, and I could see no more gaze; A wave of longing through my body swept, that the speaker is reminiscing and longing for a time and a place in his past; a place that seems unattainable to him now. By lines 11 and 12, And, hungry for the old, familiar ways, / I turned aside and bowed my head and wept, the reader understands completely why he has become overcome by grief. The grief is so strong that it brings him to tears due to a sense of hunger, not for the various fruits, but hunger for his native country.
The speaker in this poem is the poet, Claude McKay. He lived in Jamaica from 1890-1912 and wrote the poem while he lived in the United States. He wrote several other poems about Jamaica, so it is obvious that he missed his home country. This poem sounds fitting to an experience that he could have had.
The Tropics in New York is written in iambic pentameter, which means there are five feet, or pairs, of unaccented then accented syllables per line. There are three stanzas and each stanza contains four lines. The rhyme