Poem #1: “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus



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American Dream—Poetry Analysis
Read through each of the poems in the packet, all written during the modern period, and answer the following questions about the poems and their relationship to the American Dream.
Poem #1: “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

Emma Lazarus wrote this poem prior to the Modern Period (1883), 8 years after France gifted the U.S. with the Statue of Liberty, but before the U.S. had reassembled the statue at Liberty Island.

  1. In the first 8 lines of this poem, she compares the Statue of Liberty to an ancient Greek statue, the Colossus of Rhodes.

Which of the lines are about the Colossus of Rhodes? _______________________

Which of the lines are about the Statue of Liberty? _________________________

What words are used to describe the Colossus of Rhodes? ________________________________________________________________________



What words are used to describe the Statue of Liberty? ________________________________________________________________________

  1. What does Lazarus mean when she has the second statue cry out, “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp (celebrated magnificence)! In what way does this capture the attitudes of immigrants who came to American in the early 20th century?

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  1. Who does the second statue welcome to the shores of America? ________________________________________________________________________

  2. How is America characterized in the last 6 lines of the poem? What words are used to describe the land?

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  1. What does this poem say about the American Dream, as defined by James Truslow Adams? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Poem #2: “America” by Claude McKay

Claude McKay was a Jamaican born immigrant to the United States. Keep this in mind as you read the poem, or go back and re-read the poem with the knowledge that it was written from the perspective of an immigrant.

  1. Take a close look at the first three lines. As an immigrant to America, how is the speaker treated by his new home? Quote the words or phrases that support your opinion.

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  1. Despite how America treats the speaker, how does he feel about his new home (line 4)? ___________________________________________________________________

  2. What makes the speaker strong enough to stand up to the discrimination he faces as an immigrant? _______________________________________________________________________

  3. Take a look at the last four lines. What future does the speaker see for America? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. From an immigrant perspective, what does this poem tell you about the American Dream?

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Poem #3: “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson

  1. The people of the town serve as the speakers of this poem. How are they different from the subject of the poem, Richard Cory? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  2. How is Richard Cory described by the speaker? Write out the words used to describe him in the first three stanzas. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  3. How does Richard Cory treat the speakers of the poem? Quote one line to support your opinion. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  4. What makes the last line of the poem so shocking? What do the speakers of the poem assume about Richard Cory that makes the last line so shocking? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  5. In what way does this poem illustrate the disillusionment with the American Dream during the Modern Period? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Poem #4: “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American Poet and one of the first to gain national recognition as a poet.

  1. Who do you think the “we” refers to in this poem? In other words, who is represented by “we”?

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  1. We wear a mask to deceive other people, so they don’t know what we really think or feel. The mask worn by the speaker shows what to the world?

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  1. What feelings and emotions does the mask hide from the world?

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  1. How does this poem capture the feelings of one particular group of Americans regarding the American dream?

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