If We Must Die
by Claude McKay
Where It All Goes Down
When we read this poem, we picture a crowd of exhausted soldiers sitting on the ground. Their arms rest on their knees; their heads hang low. After a moment of depressing silence, out from the soldiers steps a man sweating and bloodied. The man pauses and looks around. He nods at the men with sympathy, because he's tired too. However, unlike the others, he has not lost heart.
The speaker launches into a speech that recognizes their desperate situation, but refuses to accept defeat. He starts to draw out their emotions, picking at their pride. Their heads lift a little higher with every sentence the speaker says. Before you know it, they are all on their feet and ready to face their enemy bravely, though they will all surely die.