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The Analysis of Poem The Harlem Dancer

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During the Harlem Renaissance when the African Americans were fighting for civil rights and economic equality while emerging of the black culture, arts, and music. Claude McKay wrote the Poem the Harlem Dancer in 1922, this poem was written to explain some of the struggles that African Americans faced during the Harlem Renaissance. The poem explains how Sometimes in life we can come under the control of the influences going on in the society that we lose sight of our better intentions in situations. This poem is about a dancer in a bar in Harlem, the dancer is dancing for a crowd of man and women who are acting like a bunch of wild animals. The men are not focused on coming to the bar and having a good time the focus of the men is the dancer on stage. The dancer is fighting a personal storm but does not show it by the way she moves across the stage, she knows it’s not like her to be in a place like this, but she can’t break the hold.

In the Poem the Harlem dancer in line one the setting is in a bar/ night club, the bar is calm everyone is just now filling in, in line four you can tell how the bar is calm because the author states that her body is swaying as if she is singing a calm graceful song. In line two we are giving a better description of the dancer ‘Her perfect, half-clothed body sway; this tells the tone of this specific line is hinting that the dancer is belittling herself for being half naked in front of strangers. Positive diction was presented when the author started the poem by introducing the dance as a young prostitute. In the days of the Harlem Renaissance this was normal for the prostitutes but not for a lady of class this type of behavior would strip a woman’s morals.

In line three the dancer’s voice is compared to flutes, flutes give off a sound of innocents, peace, and calmness. The flute is used as a symbol of innocents, the dancer is in a bar half naked but something about her scream’s innocent. This line is also a metaphor because it is comparing her to something sweet and graceful, even though she is in a place of drunkenness, yelling and males acting like teenage boys. Another metaphor is used in line when it states, “Blown by black players upon a picnic day” When anyone thinks of a picnic they think of sunny, love, happy and innocent. This indicates that the song the dancer was singing had to be a very peaceful son because picnic is happy and peaceful. Also, the word Black Players stood out as if it did not belong in this situation.

In line five it states that the dancer danced gracefully and calm, this indicated what type of performer she was she knew how to stay peaceful in a place of chaos. In lines six it talks about how the light hanging loosely about her form, this sets the atmosphere of the bar its dark no one can be seen just the dancer on the stage with the light hanging down showing her form. The climax starts in this section because the audience starts to get carried away once the light feels out the dancer’s figure. The light can also so be a symbol of the dancer, when you think of light you think of bright, passage to see and shinning the light on her situations. In line seven the author talks about how the dancer seemed proudly – swaying palms when I think of palms, I think of trees beautiful, warm place, sunny and tropical. The dancer swaying is being compared to that of a palm tree and her beauty is also being compared to the beauty of the tropical palm.

In line eight it indicates about a storm “Grown lovelier for passing through a storm” this can go both ways meaning it is talking about the private storm that the dancer faces. This can set the atmosphere of the bar as well, everyone is drunk at this point, so the crowd is loud, shouting at the dancer, knocking over drinks or possibly fighting. Through all this chaos the dancer can keep her composure and ignore what’s going on around her while she lets the music take control over her body as she sways gracefully. In line nine it talks about the appearance of the dancer ‘Upon her swarthy neck black shiny curls’ this tells that the dancer is African American, and it goes into detail so that the reader can imagine the attractiveness. In line ten the ‘Luxuriant fell; and tossing coins in praise’ This indicates that no matter how beautiful the dancer is, she’s just a toy that men can pass around. The coin being tossed is used as a symbol of worthlessness, the Harlem dancer is fun to look at, but no one takes her seriously.

In line elven the atmosphere of the bar is set, at this point, everyone is drunk and partying hard, this really puts the focus on the dancer. She’s so beautiful and the shape of her body has the man looking helplessly and even the women are intrigued. Line twelve states ‘devoured her shape with an eager, passionate gaze” The men are wanting her very much once they become drunk, but the dancer has seen it all before and she is not giving in to the enticing words and actions. In conclusion, the ending paragraph states’ but looking her falsely -smiling face, I knew herself was not in that strange place’. The moral of this ending is that sometimes in life people become caught up in the ways of society that they forget who they are and the morals they were brought up on. Also, when you are a woman who portrays yourself a certain way, men will begin to treat you like an object.

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