A Green Goddess of Light

In the 19th Century, it was a widespread belief that the word “liberty” suggested violence and revolution (“The French connection”). However, the man who proposed that the Statue of Liberty should be built and given to The United States as a gift from France, had a contrasting idea of what liberty truly meant. Édouard de Laboulaye believed that this monument should “not be seen as leading an uprising, but rather as lighting the way, peacefully and lawfully,” hence giving it the name of Liberty Enlightening the World (“The French connection”).


The sentiments of de Laboulaye, along with ideas about America as a nation, were effectively portrayed by Emma Lazarus. She was an American poet born in New York City, and is most famously known for her famous poem entitled The New Colossus. In her sonnet, Emma Lazarus uses a wide range of rhetorical techniques to convince her audience that America is the new land of the free, and offers everyone a chance to succeed (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). The most significant rhetorical device used in the poem is a metaphor, which is found towards the beginning of the poem when Lazarus writes, “A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame/ Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name/ Mother of Exiles” (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). Before analyzing and discussing the effectiveness of this powerful metaphor, it is necessary to regard the host of divergent literary techniques that Lazarus employs throughout her piece.

Among commencement of the poem, it is clear that the tone in which this poem is written serves as a delivery-method for multiple devices. The tone of this poem is powerful and accusing. It is powerful in that there are words with connotations of strength and advantage being employed throughout the sonnet such as “brazen,” “conquering,” “mighty,” and “command.” Moreover, in the second half of the poem, the tone shifts to one of an accusatory nature. With the authoritative line, “Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp,” Lazarus is essentially telling ancient lands of Europe that they can “keep” their history, because here in America, there will be no “homeless,” “tired,” or “poor” (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”).

Looking back at the previously-mentioned metaphor, it is clear that it serves as the pillar of this poem. In the comparison, the bright light that the torch produces is juxtaposed with the power and light of lightning. With the words, “a mighty woman with a torch,” Lady Liberty is being personified, and the name “Mother of Exiles” portrays that the statue will be a mother-like figure (“A short analysis of Emma Lazarus”). The parallel between lightning and a torch invokes the symbol of light in the poem, one which inspires hope and a bright future.


Works Cited

“A Short Analysis of Emma Lazarus’ ‘The New Colossus’.” Interesting Literature, 3 Feb. 2017, www.interestingliterature.com/2016/08/30/a-short-analysis-of-emma-lazarus-the-new-colossus/.

“The French Connection.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 8AD,   www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/the-french-connection.htm.

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