Charles Bailey “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay, we must fight!! The poem “If We Must Die, by Claude McKay” is about a certain group of people who are hated and hunted by another group of others. I believe that the poet has made this poem to speak to his fellow African-Americans, who are being mistreated by the white slave owners. The speaker tells his people not to go easily, but rather fight as long as possible and don’t ever give up before they are killed.
The poet believes that the worst things that these people can do is giving up and stop trying; he wants them to fight until the very end of their lives.
Right from the beginning of the poem the speaker reiterates the title of the poem and the message that he is trying to convey. “If we must die, let it not be like hogs hunted and penned in an inglorious spot while round us bark the mad and hungry dogs” (1-3).
This passage instills the thought in our minds that these people are being hunted and suppressed by others. The speaker knows that the end inevitable, but for himself and others he does not want them to give up. Being corned by hungry dogs should not put fear into their souls, but rather entice them to fight back even more.
Following the lines from before, the speaker establishes the same message as before. He states that letting the hunters of these people kill them in vain is not an option; they were not put on this earth to die for nothing.
“If we must die, O let us nobly die/ so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain” (5-7). The speaker states his opinion of the situation very clearly; he wants none of them to believe that they are dying for nothing. African-Americans at the time that this poem was made were dealing with horrible conditions from their white suppressers.
The speaker is trying to convey to his fellow African-Americans that letting the white man dominate them completely is the worst thing that they can do, not just for themselves but also all of those who will come after them. He wants them to know that they are fighting for the greater cause of the whole African-American race. Next he states that monsters that do this horrible deed to them will have to honor them when dead. He believes that fighting back and not giving up will make them honor them, and not think that they were nothing. Then even the monsters that we defy shall be constrained to honor us though dead! O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe! ” (7-9). The speaker strongly believes that fighting against their suppressers is the best thing to do; the suppressers will honor them indefinitely if they fight for their lives all the way to their end. The next part starts “Though far outnumbered let us show us brave/ and for their thousand blows deal one deathblow! What though before us lies the open grave? ”(10-12). The speaker emphasizes the impact that fighting back against these suppressers will have.
He talks about them being outnumbered, most of the time that would spark something in someone to just stop and give up. The speaker states that even if they are outnumbered, that has nothing to do with giving in. He tells them to be brave and fight until the last breath they will breath in this world. Finally, he states that “Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack” (13). He wants them to remember that this is wrong what the white man is doing to them and that fighting back is the best thing that they can do.
He says, “Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! ” (14). That is the theme of the poem and ends the poem as he started it, “If We must die. ” Claude McKay wrote “If We Must Die” to motivate blacks to fight back against the white man and not die for nothing. He believed in every human life on this planet, and thought that no one should be hunted and killed for doing no wrong. He knew that the racism would not stop for years to come, but he wanted to make an attempt to inspire African-Americans to not give up.