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Themes

We talk about ambition all the time – it's that thing that all business leaders seem to have in abundance, and the thing that your guidance counselor told you that you must possess if you want to get into Yale. In "I, Too, Sing America," the speaker has to have ambition for an even more pressing reason – his survival, his sense of self, and his sense of racial equality. He also possesses a persistent optimism, which manifests itself in the speaker's assurance that one day, he, too, will "be at the table."

Questions About Ambition

  1. How can you tell that the speaker of this poem is an ambitious character?
  2. How are the qualities of ambition and optimism related in this poem? How are they dissimilar?   
  3. Do you think that the poem is advocating a kind of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," classically-American attitude? Or is it something different?                  
  4. Why do you think the poem focuses so much on the belief in something better, rather than shedding light on the horrors of the current situation?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

By constantly overcoming obstacles throughout the poem, the speaker becomes, in a sense, classically "American."

The main optimistic force in this poem is the speaker's belief in the power of his body.

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