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Word Count: 1,227
In the poem If We Must Die by Claude McKay the author cries out to his audience -to his men at arms- to fight back against those that oppress them and are intent to kill them Though not as rich in poetic symbolism as the poems by Emily Dickinson and George Herbert McKays poem evokes a stronger and more inspiring emotional reaction He achieves this through his rhyme and rhythm scheme through alliteration and repetition and through animal imagery They shall be examined in reverse order The first two lines of McKays poem If we must die let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot establishes an animal theme which is continued throughout the rest of the poem McKay reaches out to the audience with intent to inspire them to action The audience becomes a hunted animal In lines three and four While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs Making their mock at our accursed lot McKay portrays the adversary as a pack of wild dogs intent on killing the speaker and his kinsmen His choice of words specifically mock is particularly effective in drawing a reaction from the audience The opponent is not only intent on killing them but mocks them in the attempt Lines five through eight turn the animal allusions a bit as McKay distinguished the differences between his kinsmen and their attackers He repeats his cry that If we must die O let us nobly die So that our precious blood may not be shed in vain His kinsmen are more than mere animals They shall not be penned in and slaughtered like hogs They are noble men with precious blood blood which will not be spilt so easily If McKay and his brothers are able to do just this then even the monsters they defy Shall be constrained to honor them though dead Thus even in the undeniable
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