Claude McKay

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What is a close analysis of Claude McKay's sonnet “To Winter”?

A close analysis of Claude McKay’s poem “To Winter” could dissect the sonnet’s use of irony, alliteration, or imagery.

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A close analysis of Claude McKay’s poem “To Winter” could center on the irony of the poem. It’s possible to argue that McKay upends normative representations of winter. Typically, winter is presented as a time of hardship. In William Blake’s poem, also called “To Winter,” winter is labeled a “direful monster.” Yet for McKay, winter means “calm love and soulful snows.” Winter is not adversarial but healing and positive. Deviating from common convention, winter becomes a balm of sorts. It helps to “ease” the speaker’s heart.

Another way to conduct a close analysis of McKay’s poem is to think about alliteration. Throughout his poem, McKay groups words together that begin with the same letter. Think about the “s” words that occupy the first line. Consider the “t” and “b” words that take up residence in line 8. The number of similar sounding words could be evaluated in connection with what was discussed in the above paragraph. The melody reflects the kind of sweetness that McKay finds in winter.

Finally, a close analysis could dissect the imagery of the poem. In his sonnet, McKay uses language to create a vivid series of pictures. It’s as if McKay is painting a landscape of winter instead of writing a poem about it. Maybe think about how the lucid depictions of the sun, the wind, the bird, the squirrels, and the falling twig tie into McKay’s positive portrayal of the winter season.

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