Similarities and Differences Between 'Yet Do I Marvel' and 'If We Must Die'

1441 Words Apr 25th, 2013 6 Pages
Ryan Cirillo
6 March 2013
Dr. Dalessio
Eng 1011
Similarities and Differences between “Yet Do I Marvel” and “If We Must Die”

During the Harlem Renaissance, many African Americans struggled through a shifting period in time from slavery to equality. Some African Americans expressed their feelings at that time through poetry such as “Yet Do I Marvel” written by Countee Cullen and “If We Must Die” by Claude McKay. In “Yet Do I Marvel” Cullen writes about how the struggles he is facing relate to God and how he is being punished. McKay’s poem is slightly different; he emphasizes the idea of dying an honorable death for his freedom. These two poems are classic examples of how some African Americans felt during the Harlem Renaissance.
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These two poems rest the blame for their hardships on the shoulders of God, in Cullen’s poem, and the white American population, in McKay’s situation. Although they both depict these greater forces, God and religion in Cullen’s poem plays a much bigger role than it does in McKay’s poem.
Cullen’s poem is based off of God’s actions while McKay’s poem has no reference to God. Religious figures have been an important component of human lives for centuries and it was very important to African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance. This was the case for Cullen’s poem, “I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind,” (1). Right in the beginning of his poem, he mentions some of his many feelings towards God. He continues to refer to God several times throughout his poem. The way he includes God in his poem suggests that God is the focal point of his problems. McKay’s poem, however, focuses the causes of his problems on something much different than a god or religion. In his mind, the source of his problem doesn’t come from God, but from white Americans. I think it is very interesting how opposite Cullen’s and McKay’s views on religion are. On one side, Cullen is a typical African American living in the Harlem Renaissance, using faith as an escape and reason for his troubles. McKay also shares a common characteristic of African Americans at this time which is to put the blame for his issues on white Americans. Cullen’s and McKay’s views on religion differed