Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 17, 2023
December 10, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
Claude McKay had been living in the United States for seven years when he wrote “If We Must Die.” The year was 1919, and as he himself has indicated, he wrote the poem in response to the brutal anti-Black violence that took place throughout America that summer—what became known as the “Red Summer” of 1919. Even so, the poem’s speaker doesn’t explicitly mention this period of violence. Instead, he speaks much more generally about the importance of resisting oppression as a method for maintaining dignity and honor. Instead of simply allowing themselves to be killed, the speaker calls for his “kinsmen” (line 9) to resist their oppressors and to meet violence with violence. Even if death remains inevitable, the speaker claims that resistance will guarantee their dignity and force their oppressors “to honor us though dead” (line 8). McKay reflects his speaker’s defiant tone in his decision to write the poem as an English sonnet, complete with lines of iambic pentameter and a traditional rhyme scheme. As someone from the British colony of Jamaica, McKay’s adoption of this quintessentially English poetic form can be understood as a political act of defiance—particularly since he uses it to give voice to the oppressed.