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Oppression Only Makes One Stronger Essay, Research Paper

The theme of oppression is very evident in many African-American literary works. This topic is found so often in African-American literature because it is a subject that almost all African-Americans live with everyday for their entire lives. In the following works the theme that is focused on is, oppression only makes a person stronger, this theme seems too obvious in both cases. In Claude McKay s poem, America, he seems to focus on this issue of being oppressed by his country, but still has a love for the country at the same time. This theme is also evident in Countee Cullen s poem, Yet Do I Marvel. It talks about how God does so many things to people that put them in hard situations and even though these hardships are apparent, they only make the recipient of them stronger. I feel that both of these poems are meant to show that everyone has hard times and if you fight hard enough you will get through them and if they do not kill you they only make you stronger.

The poem America by Claude McKay uses an oxymoron right in the first line of the poem to show how the person feels about the country. Although she feeds me the bread of bitterness (McKay 985) shows the reader that even though the country is feeding the person bread of bitterness, they are still feeding them. This shows right from the start the love/hate relationship that the person has for America. The next three lines all go together.

And sinks into my throat her tigers tooth,

Stealing my breath of life, I will confess

I love this culture that tests my youth (McKay 985)!

These three sentences really show exactly what the purpose of this poem is meant to be. It shows the country as a tiger that has this person by the neck and is stealing its breath away or trying to kill it. Even though the country is trying to kill the person, they still have a passion for the country because it is pushing the person to be stronger and making the person learn that in order to succeed they must be strong. The next two lines again emphasis the same point as the last three.

Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,

Giving me strength erect against her hate (McKay 985).

These lines show that that the person uses the strength or energy that the country uses to oppress them and they turn that into more energy they are using to rebel against it. Basically saying they are going to use the same amount of energy that the country uses to oppress them, only they are going to use it to stand up against their oppression.

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.

Yet as a rebel fronts a king in a state,

I stand within her walls with out a shred

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer (McKay 985).

This shows that the person sees the size of the country and knows the power it has, but stands up to it. The person stays in the country takes all the oppression and does nothing to start a fight, taunt, or show hatred toward the country. This shows who actually is the bigger person. It takes a much bigger person to take abuse then to give it. The last four lines of this poem all go together and finalize the person s feelings on the country.

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,

And see her might and granite wonders there,

Beneath the touches of Time s unerring hand,

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand (McKay 985).

These last four lines show that the person has faith that with time the countries power and oppression toward them will fad away. The vision not needing to rebel because they feel that the countries powers will be like priceless treasures sinking in the sand (McKay985).

Countee Cullen s poem Yet Do I Marvel plays with a very similar theme as America. This poem has a few very important lines. First the first line states I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind (Cullen 1305). This shows that the author feels that God s intentions are good, but then in line three asks, [why] The little buried mole continues blind (Cullen 1305). He is wondering if God has good intentions why does he do this to the poor mole. Then, in lines five and seven, he asks why God has forced Tantalus and Sisyphus to be tortured. He is thinking that if God has good intentions why would he have these two people are tortured which is such a cruel thing to do to them. The next couple of lines try to explain God s reasoning for doing these terrible things.

Inscrutable His ways are, and immune

To catechism by a mind to strewn

With petty cares to slightly understand

What awful brain compels His awful hand (Cullen 1305).

This shows that the author must know that God has his reasons, but maybe his reasons are too complex for a human mind to understand. Even though the author seems to understand this he is still very curious as to what could possible make God do these bad things to so many people. The next two things are also key lines in this poem.

Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:

To make a poet black, and bid him to sing (Cullen 1305)!

This shows the reader that the poet is thinking about why God would make him black if he was suppose to be a poet. Why would God not just make him white? The only answer to this is that God knew that this person was strong enough to be black and overcome all the obstacles that he may meet along the way. I feel that the author may be implying that the reason God made him black and also made him a poet was because he felt someone needed to break the barrier and God must feel that the author was strong enough to do so.

Cullen and McKay have written about how these African-American people in their poems have stood up against oppression and how they feel that the oppression only makes them stronger. This is a very true statement and still applies today. The fact that if something causes you to struggle and does not kill you it only makes you stronger is very evident in these works. The reason for this belief is because when something causes you to struggle it always can teach you a life lesson or make you able to deal with a similar situation that may arise a little better later on in life. These two poets show a great deal of knowledge about life and its hardships and both can teach a great lesson to anyone who may ever have a tough situation arise in their lives. This lesson is to stand up for what you believe because God does everything for a reason.

Cullen, Countee, ed. Yet Do I Marvel. African American Literature, Gates and McKay. New York: V.W. Norton & Company 1997. Page 1305.

McKay, Claude, ed. America African American Literature, Gates and McKay. New York: V.W. Norton & Company 1997. Page 985.

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