America Cannot Be Defined by Vilhelm

March 22, 2021


America Cannot Be Defined

In the poem “Let America be America Again” by Langston Hughes, he writes about the dream of America and how it is not available for everyone. He points out that the American Dream is not a reality for many people in the country, such as poor people, immigrants, and Native Americans and declares that the country must change. Despite talking about the issues that face the country, he remains optimistic that things can improve in the future. At the end of the poem, he writes “O, yes, / I say it plain, / America never was America to me, / And yet I swear this oath- / America will be!” I thought it was interesting how it was mostly future-oriented. He talks about the idealistic ideas of America which are not true for everyone.

The second source is a poem by Amanda Gorman titled “The Hill We Climb”. “Let America be America Again” is about America is not the country it is often portrayed to be, but can become better. This poem, “The Hill We Climb” says that we are slowly climbing the hill to become a better country and that we are getting there.  She says that we must build a brighter future for the next generation. Gorman writes, “And yes we are far from polished / far from pristine / but that doesn’t mean we are / striving to form a union that is perfect / We are striving to forge a union with purpose.” They have the same general message about the country becoming better, but they have different perspectives on the issue.

Finally, “Denial is the Heartbeat of America” is an essay by Ibram X Kendi. In it he talks about the ongoing and constant denial of what America is. Kendi claims that all of the violence in the country we face today is part of America and that people are denying reality when they say” this is not who we are.” When talking about how this problem can be fixed, he writes, “And in the end, what will make America true is the willingness of the American people to stare at their national face for the first time, to open the book of their history for the first time, and see themselves for themselves.” This essay is the most similar to “Let America be America Again” as both talks= about the specifics of the problems facing America. The first two sources had a vision of the future while this third source was the author wanting to uncover how the negative sides of society are in fact a part of America.

In my opinion, America cannot be defined in a simple statement. America is such a large country with a diverse population, in terms of ethnicity, geography, background, and experiences. Everyone has a different perspective and opinion of what they think America is and what it should become. Just like this, American literature will be diverse and reflect different experiences of America. As these three writers talk about in their texts, many of the ideals that Americans have talked about have in reality not existed for many people. The common thread in their texts and in American society is social change and has been since the founding of the country.

Works Cited

  • Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again”
  • Gorman, Amanda. “The Hill We Climb”
  • Kendi, Ibram X. “Denial is the Heartbeat of America