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Comparing Helen Johnson's Sonnet To A Negro In Harlem And The Harlem Dancer

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Harlem Renaissance Assessment 3. Helen Johnson’s “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem” (1927) and Claude McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer” (1917) differ in structure and their descriptions of their characters in relation to society. Though both are fourteen lines long, McKay uses more imagery and diction when describing the character in the poem. The style of this poem creates a romantic vibe in an organized way. Imagery makes the mood seem dreamlike which brings this piece to life. McKay describes the character “…proudly swaying palm” (1004) as an indication of his sight which can implied that he is drinking. The use of diction helps to describe the scene. He compares time to “...a picnic day” (1004) which describes the environment to be very bright as…show more content…
She combines negative adjectives such as “arrogant” and “pompous” combined with words of beauty and confidence such as “magnificent” and “splendid” to pain the picture of an admired man. In addition to being different in structure, both differ in their descriptions of their characters in relation to society. McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer” (1917) is significant because it shows the discrimination that black women faced during that time period. The line “…perfect, half-clothed…” (1004) is where the focus is on the audience watching the ideal body of the dancer, where it is obvious the audience is in awe by her appearance and sex appeal. In society, the perfection of the dancer lies in her sexuality and her body. As McKay’s piece shows the discrimination that black women faced during that time, Johnson’s piece “Sonnet to a Negro in Harlem” (1927), implies her character going against white supremacy. This somehow seems to threaten the “scorn” which can erase the contributions of the white man to society. Johnson’s character is described going against these “white” ideas by refusing to be like them. His culture described as “barbaric” is what makes him special and “too splendid for the city
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