The poem revolves around the enslavement and oppression of the blacks in the Western world. It provides an understanding of the various facets of the effects of oppression that transcends from disinheritance to fostering of hatred amongst the blacks who are oppressed. This paper aims at analyzing the thematic issues, structure and construct of the poem. The paper also aims at highlighting how the poet has used the various poetic devices in unraveling the oppression among the blacks by the whites.
In the poem, ‘Enslaved’, the poet McKay utilizes various words like; oppressed, despised, enslaved and lynched to reinforce the general theme of oppression by the whites over the blacks. The flow and the use of the words at the start of the sentence connote a high-level oppression that the black race underwent. It gives the theme of oppression prominence by ensuring that the words leave a lasting impression on the audiences as they continue reading the sentences. The poet uses a first person narrator in the poem. The use of the first person leads us to the conclusion that the poet might have been directly affected by this brutality or have witnessed firsthand the oppression of the blacks. The choice of words in the poem depicts that he/she witnessed what was happening to the black. The word choice is intentionally and aims at showing the close proximity the poet had with the issue being highlighted.
Additionally, certain words used such as Christian West depict that the whites perceived themselves as always right and righteous than the blacks. This could be the root cause of oppression and rivalry between these two races. This poem was set in Western Christian town that the blacks had been disinherited. The town was predominantly occupied by the whites. In contrast, the setting shows that the land which the blacks lived was owned by the whites. The whites therefore dominated and enslaved the blacks as the blacks had neither authority nor the economic power to be independent. The poet gives the picture of slavery where the blacks were imported and brought to white man’s land to be oppressed and maltreated at the benefits of the whites. The lamentation of the poet confirms this belief where he says “Oh when I think of my long-suffering race.”
Repetition is evident in the poem. The constant consonant sound produced by various words in this line ‘long-suffering race, for weary centuries despised, oppressed, enslaved’ and lynched ‘denied a human race depicts repetition. The two lines for where the repetition has been used provide the reader with the perception that indeed the blacks have been denied their very rights of living in their indigenous homeland and instead have been taken to the Western world where they have lost their freedom. The poet also uses contrast in the poem. The use of the hard sound “k” in words “black” and “sick” shows contrast. This represents the difference between the white people’s oppression and the confined blacks.
The poet also uses symbolism in the poem. The use of the sentence ‘Robbed in the ancient country of its birth‘, symbolizes the continuity and prolonged existence of the period of slavery. Additionally, the poet uses the word “womb” to accentuate the precepts of the world that would be used or put in place to restructure and reduce the dominance of the white on blacks for the sake of freedom and liberty. The poet shows that oppression by the white is still in existence when he says that his heart grows sick with hate, becomes as lead” in line seven of the poem. The choice of colors by the poet is also very significant symbolically. The black people indicate sorrow, evil, depression, judgment and loneliness which is a direct indication of what is happening to the blacks. The choice of white color for white people shows the perception that whites are pure, innocent, holy peaceful, spiritual and bright. The contrast brought out by these colors depicts a dominance of the blacks by the whites and symbolizes that the blacks must do everything “the white man’s way” which is pure and righteous. The poet holds that his race has no home on earth showing imagery that the white will continue to rule and despise them. Furthermore, the poet gives an image of the end of the oppression of the black when he writes that the white man’s world of wonders will be swallowed up in the earth’s vast womb or roll up like a sacrificial smoke.
To conclude, this poem shows the racial injustice that the black people undergo in the hands of the white. The blacks are regarded as individuals who are not supposed to own anything since they are robbed of their land by the whites. However, the writer has hope that this injustice will come to an end when the white man’s power will roll up like a sacrificial smoke and then deliver his people from their burden.
McKay, Claude. “Enslaved.” ders., Selected Poems of Claude McKay(1953): 38