Free «The Statue of Liberty as the Mother of Exile in Lazarus’s Poem “The New Colossus”» Essay Sample

The purpose of the paper is to present literary analysis of the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. This poem is a sonnet which was written in 1883. Lazarus’s sonnet is dedicated to the Statue of Liberty. In 1903 the poem was imprinted on the bronze plague on main entrance of the statue. The poem has given new meaning to the idea of the Statue of Liberty after its engraving on statue’s pedestal.

The title of the poem indicates that it is associated with one of the Seven Wonders of the World which is the Colossus of Rhodes. The mood of the sonnet is emotional and exalted, while tone is noticeably lyrical. The first 9 lines of the sonnet present the visual description of the American statue. Besides, the statue is presented like a female figure, because the author uses pronoun ‘her’. The first line is comparison of the Statue of Liberty with “the brazen giant of Greek fame”(1). The Greek statue symbolizes the god of sun called Helios. The statue is new one and thus does not deal with that of the Greeks. In this comparison, the poetess points out at the differences these to statues have. Greek statue has “conquering limbs”(2), while American statue is “a mighty woman” (4) who is welcoming immigrants who are forced to go in exile in their homeland.  



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In line 3 the reader finds out about the place where the statue is placed. The usage of adjectives ‘sea-washed’ and ‘sunset’ to describe the gates makes an impression of some gates to paradise or wonderland. “A mighty woman with torch” (4) reminds a goddess who sheds the light from above to illuminate the way to the “New World”. The following line is the description of the torch. Line 5 gives the name of the woman which is “the Mother of Exile”.

The metaphor “the beacon-hand” has the meaning of the direction the female statue is showing to the newcomers. The poetess clearly points out at the welcoming gesture of Americans in line 7: “Glows world-wide welcome”. Obviously, America is welcoming immigrants from all over the world. All ethnicities and nationalities are equally welcomed in the New World. The eyes of the statue are welcoming and at the same time are commanding. The meaning of the “air-bridged harbor” (8) might have the image of the Brooklyn Bridge which was built the same years as the poem was written. The twin cities that are air-bridged are Brooklyn and New York City.

In the second half of the poem which is lines 9 to 14 the statue is speaking to all immigrants of America. And this statue commands in a mild voice: “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (10-11). The statue as the embodiment of the sympathetic mother caring for all her children, all immigrants, is a powerful image. The second half of the poems is very moving. She speaks directly and explicitly to immigrants as the poetess uses pronoun ‘you’ in this part of the poem. “… cries she with silent lips” (9-10) is oxymoron which is used to express the idea that even though the statue does not speak in reality, people understand the meaning of it. The line “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” (9)  is like an advice given to the immigrants. It means that they should make up new history with new legends in the New World. The history of their homeland should be left behind. In such a way people from different countries will be united into one nation telling one history.

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The Mother of Exiles is encouraging and welcoming immigrants to move to the “New World” meaning America. She is waiting of their arrival as she says, “Send these, the homeless… to me” (13). Moreover, she will even lift the lamp so that the newcomers clearly see which way to go. American land has become a home to those who were unwelcomed in their native countries or those who were suffering at home. People seeking freedom were welcomed by the Lady Liberty. One can feel the warmness and hospitable manners of American people in the last lines of the poem.

There are a number of rhetorical devices used in the poem by Lazarus. For example, the first two lines of the sonnet are simile, because two different statues are compared. Another literary device used in the poem is personification. The statue does not talk in reality. In this poem the Statue of Liberty is speaking to people. Finally, the statue itself is the symbol of freedom and liberty of America.

To conclude, the poem renders the meaning of great messages of freedom, liberty, and hospitable welcoming of immigrants on the American land. The Statue of Liberty which has become a national symbol of freedom of America impresses everyone who has the chance to see it. The great sonnet by Lazarus is powerful message which serves to be a component of the statue making its message of tolerance, freedom and democracy more powerful and expressive.

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The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 


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