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If We Must Die

If We Must Die

by Claude McKay

Hogs

Symbol Analysis

The dog metaphor decreased the humanity of the enemies by showing how they were neither noble hunters, nor honorable ones. McKay uses a different kind of tool to show how noble and honorable the speaker and his allies actually are: the analogy. The speaker insists that his allies not die like hogs. That is to say, he prefers that they die like men. You might not know it, but pigs don't usually die in any way that seems noble. It's enough to make you a vegetarian. Also, "hog" is a specific kind of pig. Hogs are castrated, male pigs, and castration is a symbol for powerlessness. The speaker is trying to encourage his allies to manly, noble, and brave in the face of death, and hogs are the opposite in the speaker's eyes.

  • Line 1: Hogs don't really get to choose the way they die, especially if they are being hunted by a pack of wild beasts. That's why the speaker doesn't want his allies to die like hogs.
  • Line 2: Pigs are generally kept in pigpens (fenced in areas). The downside of keeping pigs in a pen is that they can't escape predators that get into the pen. They are powerless to defend themselves and they are totally trapped. Also, pigpens are filthy places. Someone would have to think hard to name a more "inglorious spot."

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