America By Tony Hoagland Analysis

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The poem “America” by Tony Hoagland dramatizes the conflict of life in America today. To many, poetry is a confusing group of words, but if the reader looks underneath the surface there is usually a deep hidden meaning of those words. In “America” the speaker is turning the words into metaphors to show the corrupted way of life Americans live. He uses key images in these metaphors to get the reader thinking. A key image is a word or phrase that doesn’t necessarily mean the literal object but instead shows characteristics of an unsaid object or idea.
The speaker opens the poem with, “Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud / Says that America is for him a maximum-security prison / Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes / Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials”. First, the speaker saying that a student is saying this shows that humans are innocent until overwhelmed with consumerism and greed. Second, the listing of the stores show that Americans are persuaded into thinking that corporations are the only way of life. Lastly, not being able to tell the difference in the show and the commercial is the way of the speaker getting across to the reader that Americans are so brainwashed by television that they cannot tell that the show itself is persuading
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Nothing is ever enough. The speaker says, “And I think, “I am asleep in America too, / And I don’t know how to wake myself either,” The speaker thinks that Americans are asleep and until people wake up and open their eyes nothing is going to change. As well, until this revelation happens for people it is only going to get worse. The speaker says, “And yet it seems to be your own hand / Which turns the volume higher?” This is taken as if the speaker is talking about the American value system which is putting money in front of everything yet still not being satisfied and pursuing it even
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