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McKay, Claude. "If We Must Die".


The speaker announces that "if we must die", we should not die ingloriously like hogs hunted by barking dogs. He urges to die "nobly", not to die in vain, but to die in such a brave way, that even our enemies would be constrained to "honour us though dead". Even though the enemy outnumbers us far, we should fight back to a finish.

The speaker calls the enemy a "murderous, cowardly pack" and in contrast to the enemy we should show that we are brave. Even if we must die, the moral victory can be ours.



- the form (a Shakespearean sonnet) and the content create a discrepancy: the traditional sonnet form is here used for military purposes

- a radical poem calling for fight (though it does not ask to initiate a fight but rather to fight back)

- the enemy against whom the speaker raises remains unspecified


  • Author

    McKay, Claude. (1889 - 1948).
  • Full Title

    "If We Must Die".
  • First Published

  • Form


Works Cited

McKay, Claude. "If We Must Die". (1919). In: The Harper American Literature. Ed. Donald McQuade et al. 2nd Compact Edition. NY: Harper & Collins, 1996.


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