Usage of the Outsider Theme in Claude McKay's Poetry
Claude McKay was an important figure during the 1920's in the Harlem Rennaisance. Primarily a poet, McKay used the point of view of the outsider as a prevalent theme in his works. This is best observed in such poems as "Outcast," "America," and "The White House." In these poems, McKay portrays the African-American as the outsiderof western society and its politics and laws and at times, the very land that he is native to.
McKays's poem, "Outcast," is the most obvious example of this outsider theme. From the title to the last line there are many references to a feeling of alienation and neglect. The voice in the poem longs for "the dim regions whence my fathers came." The voice also longs for
"forgotten jungle songs" and yearns to "go back to darkness and to peace." This is the voice of the African-American removed from his native country and made an outsider of his own home. Alienation is also voiced as "I may never hope for full release while to its alien gods I bend my knee." This line illustrates that the speaker is an outsider even where he lives and cannot escape. It would be useless even if he could because he would just be an outsider in Africa now as well. This feeling of aliention is even further revealed in later lines where he "must walk the way of life a ghost among the sons of earth, a thing apart." This line best exemplifies the plight of the African-American feeling removed from home and lost even in the western civilization he is forced to adopt. McKay's "Outcast" is the poem which the "outsider" theme is most apparent. It creates a bleak yet vivid picture of the alienation to which the African-American is subjected.
"America" is another poem written by McKay that reveals the outsider theme of the Negro in America. McKay voices his love/hate relationship with America in this poem. He states that she "sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth, stealing my breath of life." He does however "confess I love this cultured hell that tests my youth! Her vigor flows like tides into my blood giving me strength erect against her hate." This line...