Harlem Shadows Questions and Answers
by Claude McKay

Start Your Free Trial

Analyzing the imagery of Claude Mckay's "Harlem Shadows," how does the speaker represent the conflict between the environment and the girls who work/live there?

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,095 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

McKay's 1922 poem "Harlem Shadows" uses images of night and darkness to describe New York City's Harlem neighborhood. He depicts the nights as "long" and "lone." He also describes night as a "veil" that obscures what is going on. The night's darkness contrasts with the dawn's "silver break," when the prostitutes can go home. It is cold as well at night—it is a place where it can snow relentlessly and the girls must still work.

Against this harsh background, the prostitutes are described using imagery that emphasizes their vulnerability and fragility. They are "little dark girls" who hurry through the streets in "slippered feet." Their feet are tired, and the repetition of the word "feet" shows that they are always in motion, always looking for the next client. Yet the girls are "timid" and their feet are "weary, weary."

McKay's imagery turns the streetwalkers from hardened prostitutes to frightened and shy figures who are barely more than children, forced to work to survive in a harsh...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 658 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)


calendarEducator since 2016

write7,255 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write13,728 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

check Approved by eNotes Editorial