The Tropics in New Yorkby Claude McKayBananas ripe and green, and ginger-root,And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,Set in the window, bringing memoriesAnd dewy dawns, and mystical blue skiesMy eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;A wave of longing through my body swept,And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.Discussion IdeasLearn about Claude McKay with our “Fast Facts,” and dig deeper into the poem with questions in the “Questions” tab. Questions for older students (questions 1-3) focus on the poem’s metaphors, while questions for younger readers (questions 4-5) focus on the emotions in the poem.
Claude McKay uses metaphors to convey a sense of sadness and nostalgia in “The Tropics of New York.” In this case, metaphor is a literary device in which the poet compares a physical thing to an emotion or feeling. McKay uses three key metaphors in “The Tropics in New York”: tropics, window, and hunger.
What ideas are being compared by the metaphor “tropics”? (title)
What ideas are being compared by the metaphor “window”? (stanza two)
What ideas are being compared by the metaphor “hunger”? (stanza three)
“The Tropics in New York” is a narrative poem, meaning it tells a short story. What are the key events in the narrative—what happens in the poem?
Based on the poem, where do you think the poet is from?
Claude McKay wrote powerfully about life in both Jamaica and the United States. He also wrote about the racism and prejudice he had to deal with. His most famous poem is probably “America,” which starts with these lines:“Although she feeds me the bread of bitterness,And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,Stealing my breath of life, I will confessI love this cultured hell that tests my youth.”
Claude McKay became one of the most famous and influential members of the Harlem Renaissance. He traveled throughout Europe, and even lived in London, England, for several years.
Claude McKay moved to New York City, New York, where he quickly became one of the most important poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Sometimes called the “New Negro Movement,” the Harlem Renaissance was a movement focusing on African-American art and culture. Other artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance include the poet Langston Hughes, the dancer Josephine Baker, the novelist Zora Neale Hurston, the actor Paul Robeson, the musician Duke Ellington, and the painter Jacob Lawrence.
Claude McKay moved to the United States to attend college. He went to the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, and Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, but did not graduate.
Claude McKay was born in Jamaica in 1889. Today, he is the national poet of the island nation.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry alligator pear Noun
nickname for an avocado. Also called an "alligator fruit."
form of blessing or good wishes.
all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.
Encyclopedic Entry: climate dawn Noun
first appearance of daylight in the morning.
native to a specific geographic space.
material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.
Encyclopedic Entry: food gaze Noun
steady look or line of sight.
state of being alone or separated from a community.
full or heavy with.
literary device Noun
technique or method a writer uses to structure their work or produce an effect, such as metaphor or hyperbole.
strong, emotional desire.
word or phrase used to represent something else, or an understanding of one concept in terms of another concept.
story or telling of events.
sentimental or bittersweet desire for elements (feelings, people, materials) important in the past.
woman who has taken vows dedicating her life to spiritual practice, usually referring to nuns of the Catholic faith.
political division, similar to a county.
thick casing of some seeds, such as legumes or cocoa.
very small stream.
tropics Plural Noun
region generally located between the Tropic of Cancer (23 1/2 degrees north of the Equator) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23 1/2 degrees south of the Equator).
Encyclopedic Entry: tropics weep Verb