Poetry Analysis

Poetry Analysis
Student’s Name
Institution of Affiliation
America by Claude McKay (1890-1948)
Next to of course god America I” by E. E. Cummings (1894-1962)
Poetry is a form of art that has been in use over centuries to communicate and bring into
light the various social issues in the society. Poetry has been used to address social injustices,
express love, as well as warn people against certain forms of behaviors that could lead them to
consequences. The poems “America” authored by Claude McKay and “Next of course god
America I” written by E. E. Cummings were artistically effective work by the two authors that
aimed at addressing the different social issues in the United States.
Through interpretation, the two though are closely related in their general message
against oppression, they address different social injustices. The “America” by Claude McKay
addresses the issue of injustices muted against the minorities especially the black community in
the United States during his time. The poem explains what is expected of the American society
and what it is currently offering in terms of social justice (Hunter, 2014). The author uses the
poem to express his feelings as a Jamaican immigrant towards America. As he and other black
Americans strive to live to the American dream, they are faced with the obstacle of widespread
racism in the American society.
The expected American society is that of opportunity and beautiful land but what McKay
experiences is America that is oppressive to the African-Americans. The result being a flawed
system that crushes the dreams and hopes of the black community in America. The poem
attempts to create awareness of the extreme racism directed against black Americans that has led
them to live a life of despair despite the fact that America was considered a land of equality and
justice (Setiawan and Pujiati,). The poem symbolically talks of the rebellion that the American
founding fathers fought against the British colonialists and their rejection of injustice against
African-American slaves. It is against the backdrop of these American ideals that McKay seeks
for justice for the African-Americans in the then Independent America.
The poem “Next to of course god America I” by E. E. Cummings on the other hand
addresses the social issue of war and patriotism. Cummings seeks to address the plight of the
soldiers and citizens who are blindly patriotic to their country (Dylgjeri, 2016). He castigates the
politicians who insight the citizens and soldiers into blind patriotism. According to this poem,
patriotism only serves the interests of the politicians but not the interests of the people who die
fighting for the country during wars. The poet uses satire to express how politicians are creating
the near fanatical patriotism that the political class creates in soldiers and citizens for their own
selfish gains. The poem seeks to address the issue of exploitation in the pretext of patriotism that
politicians are exploiting for political mileages.
The speaker of in the poem is considered as an American congressman who is seeking to
arouse the blind patriotic feeling so that to get citizens to support and go to war zones. The then
American President, Theodore Roosevelt used one of the words that is also found in the poem
“jingo” to inspire extreme American nationalism, a necessity to win people’s support before
going to war (Whelpton). The poem ridicule the fact that leaders only want citizens to go to war
yet they themselves never go to one. The poem therefore seeks to fight against the manipulation
of the citizens and soldiers into bind patriotism in the US by politicians who send them to die in
war fronts.
The two poems were written in the 1920s some years after world war one. In the period
after the World War One when the two poems were written, there was resurgence of extreme
nationalism in America. This however came with the problem of increased intolerance towards
immigrants and ethnic diversity in the United States. The Russian revolution specifically
catalyzed the rejection of immigrants into the US for fear of instigating similar revolts in the
American system. The Economy of the United States was at boom during this period. The
Automobile industry such as the manufactures of Ford experienced the financial prosperity. Car
ownership came to symbolize economic independence and status in the American society.
Afterwards, the great depression beginning in 1929 came into effect.
In the poem “America”, the author addresses the American society with anger as to why
it has to make life difficult for the African-Americans. The racism and ethnic intolerance that
was exhibited in the 1920s had deprive the blacks and other immigrants their rights in the
American society. They were treated as second-rate citizens in their own country (United and
America). In the poem ““Next to of course god America I” feels that the American political class
needs to change on war rhetoric and support of extreme nationalist tendencies. The patriotism
that was being built in citizens and soldiers needs to be rejected by the victims because it is being
exploited by the politicians. The congressman who is the speaker in the poem is not being honest
to his audience.
The poets have feelings of anger towards the state of the American society due to the
injustices that are happening yet keep being ignored by the masses as well as the relevant
authorities. Despite the fact that the American society is built on the foundations of equality and
justice for all, the author in the “America” is bitter since his rights are being trumped upon by the
same America that seeks to protect them.
The two poems have some similarities as well as differences. First, the poems are similar
given that they seek to address an injustice in the society. Exploitation of patriotism and racism
are what both poems are fighting against (United, M. C. V., & America. The two poems are also
about the American society. The difference however between the two poems is that one talks of
injustice muted against a section of the ethnic population (the African-Americans) while “Next
to of course god America I” addresses the injustice against all subjects of rulers in the US.
The two poems have been instrumental in addressing the various social issues in America
that were dominant in the 1920s. The problems of racism as experiences by McKay in the poem
“America” was especially critical to the lives of African-Americans. Poetry has played an
important role in creating awareness of the two social problems of exploited nationalism and
racism as discussed in the analysis of the above poems.
Hunter, W. (2014). Claude McKay’s Constabulary Aesthetics: The Social Poetics of the
Jamaican Dialect Poems. Modern Philology, 111(3), 566-584.
Dylgjeri, A. (2016). Teaching stylistics through EE Cummings poetry.
Whelpton, V. Teaching the Poetry of the First World War at Key Stage 4.
United, M. C. V., & America, D. The 1920s.

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