Claude Mckay, a Dialectical Analysis
In Claude McKay’s, “Old England” and “Quashie to Buccra” McKay uses dialect as a way to give poems multiple meanings. What may be seen as a simplistic or naïve poem about Jamaican life may actually be full of double meanings that only a select audience would be able to identify. In his poem’s, McKay ultimately gives Negros who work under white colonists the underlying message of black resistance by revolution.
Perhaps what makes this interpretation so convincing is the background of the author. McKay was born Sunny Ville Jamaica as the youngest of 11 sons. While in Jamaica, McKay wrote “Songs of Jamaica”, which is where “Quashie to Buccra” is derived from. In this time, he also became a self proclaimed socialist, “ As a socialist, McKay eventually became an editor at The Liberator, in addition to writing various articles for a number of left-wing publications” (Giles 1). During this period, McKay wrote “If We Must Die”, another poem charged with angst against the oppressed Negro society. Notably this poem was read aloud by Winston Churchill during World War II, however left unattributed to McKay himself. This can be seen as a reflection on society of the time, and how they weren’t ready to see a poem like that as a black revolutionary poem, and that the issues of the black Negro were quietly swept under the rug or ignored entirely. This is perhaps why the reading of an Englishman would differ so greatly from an African Negro reading “Quashie to Buccra”, as the Englishmen of the time were out of touch with the strife these workers were experiencing. McKay’s communist background may very well be a bi-product of the cultural discrepancies of the time, and a way for the workingman to get back at the bourgeoisie, or white, upper social class.
To address the double meanings of Claude McKay’s work, the reader must first look at the surface layer. As we discussed in class, the poems were done on the condition they were
Cited: Tillery, T. D. (1992). Claude McKay: A Black Poet 's Struggle. Massachusetts, United States: Massachusetts Press. Giles, F. S. (2000, February). Modern American Poetry. Retrieved from Claude McKay 's Life website: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/m_r/mckay/ life.htm