Even before we get on down to line 33 in "Theme for English B," where America is specifically mentioned, we know that this is a poem that deals with what it means to be American. Our speaker lives in the North now (Harlem), but was raised in the South. He's living as a young adult in a time when what it meant to be black and American was about to change. The Civil Rights movement was about to jump off, but equality was a long way off. Still, our speaker realizes that, as segregated as the two races are, it's American to be wrapped up in the identity of someone you don't necessarily get along with. Even in a melting pot, some ingredients just don't match all that well. Yet, there they sit, stewing together in the grand recipe that is America stew. Yummy!
Questions About Visions of America
How do different locations in America come into play in this poem?
How would this poem be different if it were set in another country?
What is the role of race in our speaker's vision of America?
How do you think our speaker's vision of America will change as he gets older?
Chew on This
All together now! Despite their inequality, the speaker's vision of America calls for the races to come together, rather than remain separate.
I heart NYC. The speaker's vision of America holds New York City up as a model for the rest of the country to follow, even in terms of race relations.