The poem is about the statue of liberty and the major theme of the poem is how the statue of liberty acts as the benevolent empress and the mother to the exiles. The main theme is to welcome the immigrants through the lips of the mighty women guarding the golden gates and to present America as the Promised Land and to depict American dream as worth migrating and striving for. The poem starts with the following significant words, “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame”. The beginning of the poem clarifies that this Colossus is not a continuation of its predecessor, the ancient Greek Colossus of Rhodes that was a symbol of brute force and the glories of the Kings and their victories. Instead, this is a new Colossus and it symbolizes something completely different namely, the Promised Land a new home for the destitute.
Likewise, the statue of the mighty woman does not simply stand at the golden gates, rather encourages the immigrants to come to her and to her new land. She acts as the universal mother and asks the world to send their rejected ones and their impecunious ones to her. Like a true symbol of liberty and the mother of exiles, she cries, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me”. The poem depicts the purpose of this new Promised Land. It describes how it will be a land where wretched refugees can come to fulfill their dreams and would mitigate their miseries. The strong message of the poem and the heart touching tone of the poetess stamped the Lady liberty as the universal mother and symbol of hope for the refugees and for the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Paul Auster noted, “The New Colossus’ reinvented the statue’s purpose, turning Liberty into a welcoming mother, a symbol of hope to the outcasts and downtrodden of the world.”
In a similar manner, the poem also aims to present Lady Liberty in a glorious empress symbolizing the glories and magnanimity of the land she represents. At shores of the new world, there stands “a mighty woman with a torch”. Her might is equivalent to the glory of the new land and her torch is a representation of a new light and a promise for a prosperous future. The aim of Lazarus is to present America as a welcoming, benevolent and friendly land for all the poor, downtrodden and wretched ones, and she chose the Lady Liberty to symbolize all these values and promises. Lazarus wrote characteristically, “From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome”.
However, the crucial question is, does the new world still represent the same land that described by Lazarus and does the Promised Land manifests the same prosperous future for the wretched ones today? Is the Lady Liberty still the same universal mother of exiles? On one hand the promise of a democratic land and the assurance of liberty are still there, but the Promised Land is no more as congenial to immigrants as it once was. Even the promise of a prosperous future is getting less and less plausible. The unequal distribution of wealth and political exigencies are threatening the American promise. Even today, the families come to America for the same reasons they have come in the past; to be liberated from the fear and from hunger, for equal opportunities, for better standard of lives for them and for their children. But, most of the times they find their dreams shattered in the new world. They do not get the same amicable treatment the immigrants were once promised. They come for the sunlight in the new land by risking all and waging all, but they have to settle for the twilight; “not fully welcome as new Americans but wanted as low-wage workers”. (Lee)
Finally, yes the times have change and the Promise of America has to be modified accordingly, but the basic spirit must remain unaltered. Today the Promise of America would be to provide equal democratic and economic opportunities to it immigrants. The promise should be to provide a much better social security for the destitute and the wretched. The first step towards the fulfillment of the American promise is to apply the long-awaited immigration reforms. As the President Obama remarked, the system must be updated for families, workers, and employers.
Ezzo, Romi. "The New Colossus." n.d. lit.genius.com. Web. 7 Nov. 2014.
Lazarus, Emma. "The New Colossus." n.d. libertystatepark.com. Web. 2 Nov 2014.
Lee, Sheila Jackson. "Winning the Future." 16th Annual National Membership Convention
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. San Antonio, Texas. 4 Aug. 2006.
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Rumens, Carol. "Poem of the Week: The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus." 4 June 2012. theguardian.com. Web. 2 Nov 2014.