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Claude Mckay’s Political Message in if We Must Die

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The poem “If we must die” by the poet Claude Mckay stood out mostly because Mckay is well known for writing about racism especially when it was towards him. The poem was a response to the Red Summer of 1919, which involved a lot of riots and hate towards African American communities. The tragic events lead to a lot of homes being destroyed and many deaths to occur. Claude Mckay uses imagery and similes to describe the overall theme as being courageous and honorable. Which then how people were savages and encouraged how African Americans should respond to the hate and described how they should fight and not be hunted.

Imagery is mainly used in this poem and it is well written. Once you start reading the poem a picture is drawn out in your mind. Knowing the reason for the poem, you can imagine speaking to an audience while reading it. Which gives you imagery of two teams or armies going head to head. In the poem, it states in line 3 “While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,” you can picture a dog barking viciously at you. Another imagery is when he describes that they are outnumbered which gives you an idea of one group being bigger than the other. Mckay then goes on to use similes which include comparing African Americans to hogs being hunted and pinned. When Claude compares the African Americans to hogs he is saying they are weak and are letting themselves be hunted. Mckay then goes on to talk about how they should die fighting and it would be a noble way to die.

In the beginning, he appeared to be looking to catch the attention of African Americans to this predicament. Perhaps seeking to encourage them to die for a cause rather than being hunted and killed for no cause. Even if they didn’t defeat them, they would die with honor and dignity. On the other hand, Claude could be seeking to assist African individuals by warning them about being killed. The tone of the poem “If We ought to Die” by Claude McKay is fearlessness. At the start of the writing, McKay portrays a picture of the whites trying to push African Americans right into a corner in order to prevent them from going anywhere. Additionally, Mckay desires them to simply accept death, however, he does want them to put up a fight even if it’s a struggle. The poem goes on to talk about how the whites are cowards and they shouldn’t be afraid and that they should speak up and no longer be silenced.

In general, the poem confronted a variety of troubles with racism and standing up. Mckay covered numerous imagery and similes as well this turned into a political message. Many suffered through this event and in the end, Claude desired African individuals to stand up for their rights. There are many interpretations of this poem, one of them being that it was meant to push people to be fearless and courageous.It turned into nicely written through Claude McKay’s perspective. 

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Claude Mckay’s Political Message In If We Must Die. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 1, 2022, from
“Claude Mckay’s Political Message In If We Must Die.” GradesFixer, 06 Aug. 2021,
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