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Poetical Analysis of the White City

Ruth Endara
Composition III/Literature
Dr, Antlitz
June 6, 2021

“I brood upon my hate” is the kind of sentiment one bears in response to an extremely outrageous and contemptible act. The revenge of the weak is generally in the form of hate and we witness a similar emotional response in the poem “The White City” by Claude Mckay. The poem is written in a Shakespearean sonnet but the sentiments are entirely contradictory. Mckay talks about the “brooding hate” and “dark passion” raising inside him as a result of the racial marginalization the blacks have suffered. The essay will discuss the theme of the poem hidden inside the vibrant imagery and symbolism of heaven and hell, dark and white and love and hate. The theme of the poem can be explored through the use of words filled with secretive hate and emotional trauma. The poem came about in 1922 when the blacks were considered barbarians and the uncivilized group of people that were enslaved by the white colonialists.
The title of the poem coming out of a black poet around the time when the life of a black was of little or no worth compared to the animals is a deliberate agenda. The title holds hidden scorn and contempt so much so that the poet calls it the white city. The hatred in response to the segregation and all the brutality faced by the blacks is reasonable. The poet living at the time when blacks were not allowed to mingle up or reside among the whites logically “broods hate”. The hate eventually turns into a “dark passion” that grows in “the secret chambers” of the poet’s heart. The verses of the poem bear some kind of heartfelt pain and sadness because of the instilled inequality in the blacks that continuously passed onto the next generations. One also feels a sense of helplessness in the tone as there seemed no hope instead it became a never-ending nightmare for the blacks (Mckay, 1921).
The poet tells his readers that he has kept his hatred deep inside his heart secretly kept from everyone out there because this way his hatred will keep boiling and aggravating. On the contrary, if he outlets his hatred it might lose its “dark passion” that is growing ever since. Passion is something quite strong and deep that motivates and paves one’s way forward, similarly, the poet’s brooding hate is the result of his dark passion that kept on boiling inside the deepest chambers of his heart. Mckay gradually exposes his sentiments of hatred and ultimately states his remarks that his dark passion that kept on striving “makes my heaven in the white world’s hell”. The poet clearly remarks that the black man’s heaven is the white man’s hell. He wishes to have heaven-like a world for the black that will be hell for the white. The place that was worthy of whites, blacks were never allowed to be a part of it. Being treated as slaves the blacks had to suffer from the brutality and cruelty of the whites that was no less than hell for them. Out of contempt, the poet states that in the real world of the white’s hell he escapes to his heaven that has been created by the rage of his dark passion. It is his heaven that serves as “the white world’s hell”. (Mckay, 1921)
The poet in the last few lines states that “I see the mighty city through a mist”, covered in whiteness throughout. Since the poet was not allowed to intermingle with the whites so the city was filled with the whites only. The racial marginalization was so despicable that even their basic human rights were assaulted. The blacks were deprived of basic health, food and education facilities and they were made vulnerable in the white city. The reason the poet calls it the white city is because it was only whites that were allowed shelter, food, education and other necessities. Therefore the city seemed to be the haven for the whites-only and the poet viewed it through a mist.
The poet seems to endure the pain and repercussions of inequality yet he bears secretive hatred against the whites. Despite all the injustice and segregation, the poet is still driven towards the white city. The connection between white and black and heaven and hell symbolically represents the poet’s anger through the contradictory symbols and sensory paradoxes. The city belongs to the whites however; the poet feels an impulsive attraction towards the monuments of the city despite his hate.

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