Interpretation of Emma Lazarus's Poem The New Colossus
The poem The New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus, talks about the Statue of Liberty and how it gives hope to the hopeless. The statue welcomes immigrants from all over the world, and it offers high hopes and expectations to anyone coming to America. It id for that reason that the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to break free" can be interpreted as America reaching out to all the people of the United States and the rest of the world; giving them surety that it will give them a home. Going by the mood of the poem, the persona is reaching out to the oppressed and downtrodden, more especially, the immigrants who have no place to call home, because in America they will find a home. Perhaps the two groups of people that Lazarus insinuates are the African Americans and the Russian- Jewish exiles.
Following the era of slavery and slave trade, the African-American community in the United States was viewed inferior to whites and were underprivileged. Privilege had put some section of the population on a better pedestal while inequality seemed to prevail. Since the American Civil War, there was a keen interest in wanting to treat everyone as equal members of the American society and not everyone was in agreement with that, especially as seen by the Southern States that wanted to maintain slavery. The slaves were yearning to break free; these lines in the poem make sense going to their example.
Another group of people that can relate well to the model in this line is the Russian- Jewish Exiles. After the assassination of Czar Alexander II, the Jewish in Russia felt unsafe and most of them moved to the United States. They form part of the disadvantaged immigrant camp and were subjected to hardships. The Russian- Jewish were struggling to conform and were ill-treated just like other minority groups who were not subjected to the equality propagated by the Bill of Rights. It is for this reason that these lines by Lazarus also apply to them because they too, were yearning to breathe free.
Just like Lazarus insinuates in the poem, “Mother of Exiles” is a direct reference to the United States, because it is a country made up of immigrants. The Statue of Liberty which she also makes direct reference, is supposed to give all Americans an equal opportunity, but that was not the case because some minority groups like the African American community were treated as less citizens. And, so, the lines advocate the acceptance of everyone into America, even those who were not acceptable in mainstream society.
Through this poem, it is clear that America is opening its doors to everyone, in order to give them a chance to create their lives anew. African Americans and Roman- Jewish were also welcome to America even if they were being sidelined and treated as less human being. They were to be freed from their problems. The mere presence of anyone in America is supposed to make them have a sense of pride and freedom according to this poem and specifically this line. America is supposed to give them relief, and not further their pain and anguish. The poem is a call for the restoration of the downtrodden, in an effort to give them a chance to be happy about life.