A Look at the Reality of the American Promise
The Reality of the American Promise
Poetry, in a cumulative sense, is an exhibitory archive containing the sum of the human experience. For example, Poetry helps us explore the most general and specific areas of humanity. Likewise, poetry can be utilized to investigate the profundities of a particular feeling. Above all, poetry helps us understand the totality of a writer’s experienced contemplation on a given subject. In regards to the “American dream” or “American promise”, Emma Lazarus and Langston Hughes express starkly different views on what America has to offer to the underprivileged. Comparing the upbringing of both authors leads to an explanation, of the differing perceptions of reality found in between, “The New Colossus”, and “Let America be America Again”. A thorough analysis of the poems themselves will tell us what exactly the authors are saying. To a certain extent, this information is useful when relating to the struggles and hardships that immigrants like Enrique face when trying to get to America. It is also useful in forming a general opinion on modern day America.
Emma Lazarus and Langston Hughes grew up on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum. The two lived very different lives. . Emma Lazarus was of European descent. Langston Hughes was an African American. . Lazarus was born into a rich family. Hughes was poor and being black didn’t help his situation in a time of racial segregation. Hughes’ father published her first series poems for her; a considerable expense at the time. It makes sense that Emma Lazarus saw America in such a positive light compared to Langston Hughes. Her view of the world was much more protected and sheltered because of the amount of money she had. This is a safe assumption to make. Lazarus was never submerged into the culture she was speaking to. Hughes, on the other hand, was born into a life of poverty. He was side by side with the poor and underprivileged that he and Lazarus both addressed. In his poem “Let America be America Again”, he was addressing his own people. Hughes’ perspective on life in America is quite negative compared to Lazarus’. When defining reality, experience is much more accurate than observation. Therefore, Hughes’ perspective is different from Lazarus’ because it is much more accurate.
Poetry is a complicated form of expression. It employs devices such as metaphor, symbol, repetition, allusion, sound, rhythm, imagery, connotation and irony. By using these devices, poets can create multiple dimensions of meaning behind every word. Due to the complexity caused by multi-layered meaning, poetry is open to misinterpretation. That is why a detailed analysis is vital to a correct interpretation of both poems.
In “Let America be America Again”, Hughes immediately introduces the fact that he believes America is not all it can be. This is because of his usage of the word “again” in the title. Hughes wants America to be “the dream it used to be”(2). He wants America to fulfill its promise: To grant him equality, freedom, and opportunities for the pursuit of happiness. Even though Hughes believes that America upheld its promises at one point, he says: “America was never America to me”(5) Hughes never actually experienced the fulfillment of the American promise.
Obviously there is an imbalance in the spread of resources, which is why Hughes never got his promised share. By using phrases like “tyrants scheme”, “kings connive”, and “man be crushed by the one above”(8-9), Hughes is trying to tell the reader that the people in power are the ones living happily, but at the same time, are depriving everyone else of opportunity. However, there isn’t just one big group of poor people.
Hughes recognizes that there are several different sub-groups of people at a disadvantage, and they all are suffering for specific reasons. For example, the “Negro bearing slavery’s scars”(20) points towards African Americans who were considered less than human and to this day are profiled and discriminated against. This is because they used to be enslaved during a period in America. Native Americans are another good example: Hughes addresses their struggle by saying that the “red man” was “driven from the land”(21). Anyone who has taken an American history class is familiar with the number of Native Americans left; approximately one-tenths of the population.
Immigrants who came to America didn’t just sit around and complain about not getting opportunities to fulfill the American Promise. They worked hard in effort to better their livelihood. For example Hughes addresses the farmers as “bondsman to the soil” (32). Likewise, he refers to the factory worker as “sold to the machine” (33). Apart from the “Negro”(34) who was once enslaved him/herself, Hughes insinuates that the lower-class worked so hard, it was as if they were enslaved to their specific professions. Regardless of their hard work, these people were still “Hungry” and “Beaten” (Hughes 36-37). The poor, disadvantaged working class were battered and bruised from years of hard work, yet they were still hungry for a better life; A life that would literally bring more food to the table.
Hughes was miserable with the current reality of American life for the lower-class. However, this did not stop him from dreaming of an ideal America. To Hughes, an ideal America was a place that is “the dream the dreamers dreamed”(6) . It was a place where the “opportunity was real”(Hughes 13), so immigrants could pursue their dreams to reality. It was also a place where there was so much equality you could smell it “in the air we breathe” (Hughes 14). For most of the duration of “Let America be America Again”, Hughes is only hoping for these ideas to become a reality. However, near the ending of the poem, he swears to his audience as a last appeal that “America will be”(Hughes 78). He assures his audience that someday, they will get an opportunity and their fulfillment of the American Promise.
“Let America Be America Again” is a much longer poem compared to “The New Colossus.” That is because there is a greater amount of relatable details that can be referred to when addressing reality than when promoting ideals. In “The New Colossus” Emma Lazarus paints a very optimistic picture of America. To an immigrant reading the poem, America would appear as an ideal place to start a new and much better life.
Lazarus begins her poem by establishing the stark difference between the Colossus of Rhodes – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and “The New Colossus” that will replace it as a symbol of human achievement and endeavor. For Lazarus, the old statue is masculine, “brazen”(1), and severe, symbolizing the often oppressive nature of Ancient Greco-Roman patriarchies.
In contrast, the Statue of Liberty is a “mighty woman” that wields a torch “whose flame / Is the imprisoned lightning”(Lazarus 4-5). This statement equates her with the Greek gods who were also able to command lightings such as Zeus and Thor. Lazarus names Lady Liberty “the mother of exiles”(6); a protecting and nurturing figure. Lady Liberty condemns the selfish ways of old world societies, in which the wealthy are far more concerned with their reputations (“storied pomp”)(Lazarus 9) then with caring for the needs of the population. The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for America. Lazarus uses her to invite those who want to escape hunger, oppression, and destitution. In other words, these people are the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (Lazarus 11).
The struggles the lower class citizens and immigrants faced in America during the days of both Lazarus and Hughes are similar to the struggles immigrants and the lower class face today. Enrique is one such immigrant who is subject to the struggles aforementioned. Sonia Nazario is the author of “Enrique’s Journey.” Enrique is the protagonist of this story. Enrique is a Honduran migrant who goes on a journey across South America in hopes of a better life for himself. More importantly, he wants to reconnect with his mother in America. Enrique’s mother, Lourdes, took the dangerous journey herself in hopes of providing a better future for her children back home. Just a general description of Enrique’s story resonates so deeply with the ideas of “The New Colossus”.
Think about how bad the situation is in other countries that a woman would risk being subject to murder, rape, mutilation, starvation, and severe illness so she could provide a slightly better life for her children. That’s right, Lourdes didn’t become even make it to a middle-class livelihood let alone becoming a millionaire. A big part of what kept hope alive in both Enrique and his mother during their travels is the idealistic portrait of America that is painted by the extensive broadcasting of our culture through media today. It is the conceptually the same ideas that are presented in “The New Colossus”. Lourdes wasn’t very clear with Enrique when she had those hurried conversations with him over the phone about life in America. He didn’t know that his mother was working incredibly hard just to keep a roof over her head, send things back home to him and his sister, and save enough to eventually transport her kids to America. Lourdes’ life after settling in America is strikingly similar to the aforestated ideas in “Let America be America Again”. It became evident to Lourdes that the America she idealized was not the same America she arrived too.
Taking into consideration the idealized view of America portrayed by Emma Lazarus, the dystopian but realistic view of the country portrayed by Langston Hughes, the reasoning behind the poets’ contrasting views, and the story of Enrique, America remains the most ideal place to live on Earth. The most poverty stricken Americans and immigrants in America still have better lives than people in third world countries. That does not mean that we should not fight for equal opportunity. As a country, we want our future generations to have much better lives than we ever had or will have. This only possible if every American has a fair chance to pursue the American Dream: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
A Reflection On Enrique’s Journey By Sonia Nazario
The Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario is primarily the authors perspective on the experiences of kids left by their parents ate a young age. Essentially, the author was describing how Enrique’s, Lourdes, as a struggling parent had to bring up his sister and son. For instance, the book demonstrates how she was struggling to provide for her family by doing laundry in a muddy river, going door-to-door selling tortillas, plantains and used clothes. However, she was tired of all these struggles and decided to leave his family behind and move to the United States so that she can support the family better. Mainly, her decision of going to the United States made her leave behind something very precious, and this was Enrique. Moreover, this decision was not favorable since Enrique was just five years at that time and he had to undergo emotional depression. This element was more emotive since I had to figure out leaving without parents at that tender age. Consequently, the author captured this feeling by explaining how many kids such as Enrique spent most of their time in agony trying to remember their mother feeding them and bathing them. As a result, the Lourdes absence became larger more important and larger than life.
In addition, even though in America, these migrants had many struggles such as paying rent, and looking for food, the author shows that in their children’s imagination back home they became deliverance itself an answer to any every situation since finding them was the quest for the Holy Grail. This shows that even though parents usually left their kids behind, the kids were always yearning to go and search for their mothers wherever they were. Other elements that caught my eyes when going through the book were the challenges migrants were experiencing when trying to leave their home countries. For example, within the Mexican-American border, Enrique met various challenges such as encountering hostile border patrol. In addition, sometimes he had to strip and wage into the Rio Grande to cool off, but the patrol officers always caught him and sent him back. This element depicted how difficult it was to cross the border for the migrants coming to the United States.
After Enrique managed to arrive at the borders in Texas, he finally managed to call his mother. However, his ordeal experiences were still far from over. This is because, after several lengthy delays and complications he managed to make a dangerous crossing but this there was no fairy tale reunion with his mother. Also due to his bitterness over heartbreaking separation spilled put his words and actions of self-destruction. At last, things got better when he grew up, started working, and started seeking legal status. As a result, the author created a more profound human emotion to an issue that is highly emotive now when he focused on a story of a young boy who was brought up from a broken family, and whose perseverance, courage and resilience seemed extraordinary in the face of impossible odds. Equally important, migrant such as Enrique was also coming across people with good hearts even though they were ales living an impoverished life. For instance, some of this individual with kind hearts made it their responsibility to toss food and water to the immigrants who were clinging on the top and side of passing trains. These people made me reflect and appreciate agencies and churches that show compassion to the migrants by providing accommodation and food for them.
Most importantly, the case studies and statistics presented in the book were captivating. However, at no point was I moved than when she explained her personal experiences of riding the trains. In comprehensive and heart-wrenching detail, she described the struggles she encountered, while at the same time acknowledging the privileges she had as a well-off American citizen. For instance, she described experiences of extreme weather conditions, sustained injuries from rocking the train, and most importantly, one scenario in which a gang member attempted to rape her. In a nutshell, the book Enrique’s Journey’ by Sonia Nazaro is a recount of a young Honduran boy quest of searching for her mother after eleven years of separation when her mother was forced to leave her starving family to search for a job in the united states and braved unimaginable risks. For example, exposure to extreme weather conditions, traveling in a hostile environment full of bandits, robbers, and corrupt government officials. However, she preserved by relying on her courage, wit and kindness and hope of some of the people he came across. Therefore, the raw emotions and passions she displayed together with inarguable statistics made the presentation of her narrative evoke the reader’s emotion. This is because the way she incorporated her immigration narrative into immigration made her work engaging, and deeply personal. Therefore, the book was an instrumental piece since it narrates and depicts the significant information on the experiences of migrants and the book made me sympathize with the immigrant and I was left asking several questions on how I can personally intervene and assist them.
A Discussion on Immigration in the United States: The Example of Enrique’s Journey
Immigration: Yay or Nay?
Immigration is a topic that is discussed in the United States and there are people who are for it and against it. This topic is discussed in the news, during presidential debates, as well as in books like Enrique’s Journey. Enrique’s Journey is a book about a guy name Enrique and his journey to reunite with his mother Lourdes. Lourdes struggled to support her one son and daughter, Enrique and Belky. She knew that they would only be able to go to school for a short time and that she did not want them to grow up how she had to, which was in extreme poverty. She had to make an extreme decision here to leave her children and try to make it to the United States in hopes of getting a job to be able to send money back to her children so they would be able to live a better life then she has had in the past. She decided to take the chance and go to the United States to try and be able to care for her children. It’s hard to decide if this is a good or bad thing to do because it seems like a good act but can end up as a terrible decision. You try to do well but then what happens to the children that you leave behind without knowing what the fate of your children would be. You also have to think about what happens if you fail to get what you had hoped for and then you’re pretty much helpless. I’m not sure what I would do in this situation and would have to evaluate all the risks to see if the action I would take would be really worth it and if losing your family to try and help them would be a good action to take.
So Lourdes’s decisions had some repercussions that effected Enrique more than anyone in my opinion. First of all this left Enrique clueless on why his mother left and any information that he would try to get from his family didn’t help because he did not receive a straight answer. Belky got to attend a good school and was well taken care of by their aunt. Enrique on the other hand didn’t get so lucky, Enrique gets shuffled from home to home and is forced to sell spices and food while he was still a child in order to help pay for family expenses. He lived with his grandmother for most of his childhood but when he starts to rebel he is kicked out. His mother leaving him started abandonment issues within Enrique and the death of his uncle made it worse. To comfort himself in these situations he turned to drugs, his family and girlfriend tried to intervene and help him out but that didn’t make much progress. He eventually ended up wanting to go to the United States to search for his mother. He leaves Honduras with little money, one change of clothes and his mother’s phone number. He ends up having to attempt entry into the United States eight times before he makes a successful attempt. Each of the first seven attempts is accompanied by being beat up, robbed, deported and humiliated, Even with these circumstances he never gives up and continues to try.
I feel that if Enrique still had his father and mother to live with him that his life would still be rough but it would have not been as rough as it was in this current situation. I feel that he wouldn’t have developed his abandonment issues. He also wouldn’t have to rebel and rely on drugs to comfort himself. His life maybe would still be rough in the end but, there are different ways that life can be rough to you and you would want the one that is least painful and that includes your parents and family. With your family it is a lot easier to get through the rough times then it is when you are by yourself and have no one to really rely on.
There are also the opposite opinion about these situations. Some people would say that, yes leaving your children is fine if you’re trying to get them a better life then you had because what you experienced was horrible. To counter that people can say that when you leave you aren’t going to have a smooth experience and for Lourdes this was the case. When she makes it to the United States, she realizes that life in the United States is more difficult than she expected. She has to work in a series of low-paying jobs, and also becomes pregnant. When she gives birth to her daughter Diana, she loses her factory job and then becomes a prostitute for a while. But, eventually she finds steady work again, and is able to send money, clothing, and toys to Enrique and Belky. The children appreciate the gifts, but that isn’t enough to replace the physical presence of their mother.
Immigration will always have two sides to it and each side will always argue why it is better or worse to have immigration in the United States. People who are pro would use the story of Enrique’s Journey to justify illegal immigration by saying people are just trying to find a better life then they what had when they left their home. While the other side would say that all illegal immigrants that come here are going to commit crimes and that they should all be deported. In the United States there are over 11 million unauthorized immigrants. That is a lot of people coming to the United States for all kinds of reasons and those reasons could have good intentions or they can come to the United States and commit crimes. Out of the 11 million people that are here as unauthorized immigrants there are 60% of them that belong to six states alone. I feel that this is like this because they have heard good things about these areas and try to start their life in these states. I feel that the argument that these unauthorized immigrants take jobs that people living in the United States could be doing is kind of flimsy. First you have the jobs that they do, these jobs are jobs that most regular people would not want to do. I once saw this documentary on what these immigrants do for work and one of the jobs was picking oranges. The job took a lot of work and labor that most regular people would not want to do in the first place. Also the pay for this job wasn’t that great and they were paid by how many tubs of oranges they could fill in a day. These immigrants were also here on a visa and this is the work that they could find. Considering this what do you think the people who are unauthorized would have to do to get money and how much less would they be paid to do so because they don’t get paid a lot to do these hard working jobs that no one else wants to do in the first place. This leads to the argument that only about 5% of the whole United States work force is made up of unauthorized immigrants. But if you think about it, how much of the 5% are jobs that people want to do or jobs that people wouldn’t want in the first place. I think that if this was really a problem that if legal people wanted these jobs that they would get it, and that if no one else even wanted the job that it would be fine to just leave it how it is.
The Socratic Circle In Enrique’s Journey By Sonia Nazario
I believe the Nazario decided not to finish the story when Enrique reunited but instead the chronicles of after because she wanted the reader to experience the true story of kids reuniting with their mothers/fathers. Because Nazario included this, the story becomes more emotional through the ending. For example, in the text, it states ““Belky always got more from you, ” he says. If he was destitute, he had no one nearby who could help. “How could I ask you for anything?” he asks Lourdes. “I would go a year without talking to you. ” He tells her he wanted to study, he just didn’t want to have to beg his mother for the money. “Belky is going to be a professional. Look at me, ” he says. Enrique tells Lourdes her biggest mistake was getting pregnant a year after arriving in the United States. “You shouldn’t have gotten pregnant until you knew your existing kids were okay, ” he says. Why did she continually promise to return for Christmas and then never show up?
Once she knew he was in trouble sniffing glue, he asks her, how could she stay away? “You left me, abandoned me, ” he tells her. “You forgot about me. ” Nothing, he tells her, was gained by their long separation. “People come here to prosper. You have nothing here. What have you accomplished?” If she had stayed in Honduras, he would have turned out better. “I wouldn’t be this way if I had had two parents. ” A true mother, he tells Lourdes, isn’t the person who carries you in her womb. It is someone who raises and nurtures you. “My mother is my grandmother María, ” he tells her. He warns Lourdes that she has no right to give him advice. “You long ago lost the right to tell me what to do, ” he says. Then Enrique lands the most hurtful blow. He tells Lourdes he plans to leave her and return to Honduras in two years. “I’m not going to do the same as you — stay here all my life. ”” This is an example of a fight between Enrique and Lourdes, about the money she sent to him. This example is reasoning for the terrible relationship Enrique had with his mother, after he arrived.
I think the meaning of the statement “a powerful stream that can only be addressed at its source” means I think the author is using a metaphor of a stream or river to describe the power of immigration from Mexico. The author feels that to engage in the huge issues involved, governments must go to the source of the stream beginning in Mexico. Here one can find all the reasons, potential fears and dreams that power this stream of people flowing into America. In the text, it states, “María Enriqueta Reyes Márquez, thirty-eight, of El Campesino El Mirador, climbed up to the cross. She says she could see that a bullet had splintered a bone in the girl’s arm. “It’s as if they were hitting a dog, ” she recalls, her eyes brimming with tears. “They treat dogs better than that. They don’t punish criminals, but they beat up these poor folks. Why? Why?”” Or, another good example is, “The police gave chase. Townspeople say the officers began to shoot.
One bullet hit a Honduran girl, seventeen or eighteen years old, in the arm. She was eight months pregnant and said it was because she had been raped by a policeman in Chiapas. ” These make sense as evidence to support this because these shootings or people getting raped or even people dying of either hunger or food, only stops when people stop trying to exceed the border. This is why the author used the words “. . that can only be addressed at its source. ”