How Does The Poem If We Must Die By Claude Mckay Relate To The Harlem Renaissance – Claude McKay’s poem Chef-d’oeuvre If We Must Die touches on broad themes based on his personal experiences in the United States during the Harlem Renaissance. The film If We Must Die was primarily a response to the widespread irrational hatred felt towards African Americans in 1919. This hatred was expressed in the form of abusive speech and criminal activity, all directed at the black community in the United States.
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How Does The Poem If We Must Die By Claude Mckay Relate To The Harlem Renaissance
The speaker makes it clear early in the poem that he and his “relative” live under constant threats and hatred leading to death. During the race riots of 1919, hatred crossed the line, leading to death and unnecessary loss of life; Most of those killed were African Americans. The documentary is based on McKay’s poem If We Must Die, which deals with the racial unrest associated with black-white tensions at the time.
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What is most interesting in McKay’s poetry is the brutality transformed into the humanity of an oppressed group. If the poem is seen as a response to the race riots of 1919, the “pigs” could be compared to African Americans, suggesting that the “animals” were inbreeding. By using the “pig-like” analogy, McKay attempts to distance himself and the black community in general from the misconception that they are pigs.
It is just a myth that they are pigs, but basically they are compared to such filthy animals. Also, although black people are compared to pigs, they definitely do not want to live like that. During the race riots of 1919, blacks were treated like pigs; Useless animals “unfit to live among humans”. This claim explains why the police did not take action after the stoning of Eugene William. guilty
On the contrary, they arrested a black man, counterintuitively. McKay also takes advantage of the “writing” of the living conditions of these animals by saying that it is “reprehensible” for this to occur, implying self-respect and pride that seems excessive for a widely accepted practice.
In 1919 Mackay lived like black pigs in the conditions described. First, Africans were “kidnapped” from Africa and taken to the Western world, where they were “settled” in notorious “places” as slaves. They were only suitable for the degrading “place” of slavery.
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Despite living in such a situation, the speaker is aware that black people must have some sense of ‘humanity’. If they must die, they must not be like pigs. They must die a “noble” death, without shedding their “precious blood”. Even after blacks were hunted down and imprisoned, they continued to suffer at the hands of their oppressors. Apparently animals like blacks “barked” because they couldn’t pick up simple instructions.
Another interesting term compared to marginalized people is “cursed party,” which can be seen as African Americans believed to be under Ham’s curse, indicating that the speaker is aware of the legitimacy of their oppression. This statement begs the question: Why are all the atrocities mentioned experienced only by blacks? The answer to this question lies in line 4, where the speaker talks about the possibility of a curse.
The only explanation why a particular group suffers at the hands of other people is that the victims are cursed. Perhaps the Curse of Ham theory is valid because there is no other curse in human history commonly associated with Africans.
The reasons for the killing and bloodshed of innocent Africans were unjust and unreasonable. In this context, McKay complains that so much “precious blood” has been shed needlessly. The only explanation for so much bloodshed is the increasing tension between blacks and whites during the Harlem Renaissance.
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More than two-thirds of those killed in the race riots of 1919 were black. However, the speaker announces that it is time for action and that the “pigs” must rise up and challenge the demons that oppress them and regain their dignity even after death. If they want to die, they should die with dignity, not like pigs. From line 6 of the poem, the speaker issues an ultimatum that black people, their ‘relatives’, must wake up and fight for their lives.
By stating that they have “rare blood,” the speaker portrays the idea that the oppressed group are humans, while they are beasts, a group appointed by God to be exploited and exploited. By all human standards, man should not oppress his fellow humans. Inspired by this profound truth about humanity, the speaker lobbies against his oppressed “relatives” to protest any inhumane treatment committed against them.
In the ninth line, he establishes the oppressed group as “kindred,” which, in the context of a call to action, invites the reader to gain a new understanding of the virtues of kindness, self-sacrifice, and self-sacrifice that define higher understanding. . of humanity. And in fact it maintains this rarefied state of existence.
One might think that the speaker is calling out his “relatives” to carry out actions he hates. He encourages them to “face the common enemy” (line 9) and “deal a fatal blow to the oppressors” (line 11). But while oppressors kill innocent black people and shed their precious blood for no reason, speakers call on the oppressed to take action against this inhumanity. He wants to oppress the oppressor, not destroy him.
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But he cannot destroy oppression without first killing the oppressor. Therefore, the speaker encourages his people to be brave, to show courage by fighting for the right path. In this case, the “common enemy” the speaker refers to is not the white man but inhumanity. It doesn’t matter who did it; black, white or red. Such criminals are “mad and hungry dogs” who must be tamed (line 3).
This form of struggle contributes to a different humanity based on sacrifice and sacrifice. The ability to do “good” in this situation underscores the need to remove oppression and inhumane behavior from society, no matter the cost. This new form of humanity requires self-sacrifice; A sacrifice to die nobly, but not like pigs.
Such humanity cries out for strength and deals a fatal blow to the silence of inhumanity, even if some oppressed suffer thousands of blows to rise, become brave and stand up. Such humanity says that we will fight like men and “face the murderous, cowardly horde” (line 13), “even though the open grave lies before us” (line 12). Yes, such humanity says that even if we “back against the wall” (line 14) and “die,” we will persevere and retain our dignity even after death.
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In the final lines, McKay reinterprets the earlier setting of “Pigs/Hunt and Punished” through the oppressed group’s new courage and acceptance of inevitable death. McKay encourages African Americans to see their struggle against those who needlessly kill them as worthy of death, for they will now still be “pressed against the wall” (line 14), but they will be people who die with dignity. and honor.
Such appeals redefine humanity to include the version that humans should be prepared to die and kill, in an effort to reestablish a grossly distorted principle of “humanity” through the eyes of the oppressor. The oppressor thinks he is a better person than the oppressed, but the speaker suggests how to defeat this corrupt form of humanity, how to resist it, how to kill it, and how to “reestablish a definition that recognizes that we are all human beings—equal human beings.”
Ultimately, McKay’s poem If We Must Die takes on a mixed interpretation taken from the perspective of the race riots of 1919 and its humanist aspects. In the poem, the speaker reveals a kind of brutality disguised as humanity, a corrupted version of true humanity where everyone is equal.
The speaker laments the mistreatment of blacks, recalling the race riots of 1919. However, the speaker urges his “relatives” to hate such brutality and fight for humanity based on the sacrifice and sacrifice that is true humanity.
Afro American Affairs (athens, Ohio), February 1976
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