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If We Must Die

If We Must Die


by Claude McKay

If We Must Die Theme of Honor

Honor runs throughout the other themes of "If We Must Die," and it is the underlying idea of the poem. The speaker feels that on his side are the "good guys," because they are honorable men and will only fight honorably. The fact is, they are not fighting for survival; they already know they will die. They will fight honorably so that their death will not be meaningless, and so that, maybe, their enemy will honor them in death.

Questions About Honor

  1. Does honor allow the speaker any options besides fighting back?
  2. How is honor a masculine characteristic in the poem?
  3. What does the speaker value as honorable?
  4. What about the enemies is dishonorable?

Chew on This

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

The speaker values many things as honorable, including revenge, some forms of death, unshakable bravery, and fighting by the rules when others don't. The speaker's reliance on honor to provide his life with meaning leaves him no other option that to give up his life.

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