What does "golden door" mean in the poem "The New Colossus"?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Lazarus talks of a “golden door” in this poem, she is trying to tell us that the door will allow people to gain access to things that are very valuable.  Gold is, of course, a very precious metal.  If the door to a place is made of gold, it is likely that what is behind the door is very valuable.

So what was so valuable behind the door?  There were at least two things that were valuable to immigrants coming to the United States.  One of the things of value was economic opportunity.  Many of the people who came to the US were hoping to enrich themselves in ways that were not possible in their home countries.  The second valuable thing was freedom.  Many immigrants were coming in search of religious and/or political freedom.  Both of these things would have seemed precious to the immigrants.

Thus, in this poem,  the “golden door” is a door to various kinds of freedom and opportunity that were not available in Europe but could be found in the US.

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Michael Ugulini | (Level 3) Educator

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“Golden Door,” in the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus represents a few meanings in relation to the subject matter of the sonnet. One meaning is that those who have suffered poverty and hunger in their respective homelands because of oppression now have a golden door of real opportunity opened to them in the land of the free (the United States of America) where they have now arrived. The golden door is a beacon of promise beckoning immigrants to embrace a new land and all it offers.

Another meaning of the golden door is that anything worthwhile is worth fighting and working hard for, and gold is emblematic of something of worth. Therefore, the golden door represents all that is right and proper about America. The opportunity that America affords must be sought diligently and when success is attained it must be cherished like gold – the gold of the golden door that is the entrance into a free land that rewards hard work.

Another meaning of the golden door is that it is like the pearl of great price. When one sees the value of coming to America and beginning a new life, it is often necessary to give up the ties and baggage of a past life in another country where one suffered hardship and even deprivation and humiliation. The golden door represents forsaking much to attain that great pearl – freedom in a land that respects individual freedom and promotes it diligently.

One other meaning of the golden door is that it represents a new way of thinking. It represents a changed mindset in the person who has taken the initiative to try a new land and new way of life. The golden door can represent this person’s optimistic view of what life in a free land is all about. The golden door is symbolic of the hope in the person’s mind, which causes him or her to take brave action to change their destiny.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Ideally, the phrase “golden door” does not necessarily refer to actual riches, but to the opportunities afforded by the United States—opportunities denied to people in the countries they left. “Brazen” refers to the fact that the ancient statue at Rhodes was encased in copper; the word also negatively suggests effrontery and pride. The ideal expressed here is that the United States is a land of openness, receptivity, and hospitality. It is a new land, a place of new opportunity. In the best sense, the “golden door” is open and receptive to people from foreign shores without favor to anyone.

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