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If We Must Die

If We Must Die


by Claude McKay

If We Must Die Theme of Men and Masculinity

McKay's speaker in "If We Must Die" focuses a great deal on nobility, bravery, and honor – stereotypically masculine features. He also implies that men are violent, but also assumes that real men fight honorably. However, it's more of an ideal than reality, if we assume that the cowardly enemies are men too. Hunting and war are manly activities in the poem and they get tied up with masculine images and feelings.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Does the speaker leave any room for women in his poem?
  2. How does the speaker suggest men act when confronted?
  3. What is the relationship between hunting and masculinity in "If We Must Die?"

Chew on This

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

The speaker's inability to see any alternatives to death is a masculine attitude towards conflict. The fear of being turned into hogs (castrated, male pigs) represents how many men react when they feel powerless.

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