An Analysis of ‘Harlem Hopscotch’ by Dr Maya Angelou

One foot down, then hop! It’s hot.
Good things for the ones that’s got.
Another jump, now to the left.
Everybody for hisself.
In the air, now both feet down.
Since you black, don’t stick around.
Food is gone, the rent is due.
Curse and cry and then jump two.
All the people out of work.
Hold for three, then twist and jerk.
Cross the line, they count you out.
That’s what hopping’s all about.
Both feet flat, the game is done.
They think I lost. I think I won.

Harlem Hopscotch is a powerful political piece of poetry which explores issues of poverty and struggle in the disadvantaged area of Harlem.

The title Harlem Hopscotch suggests a distinct game exclusive to the province of Harlem. However, once we read the entire poem, we get an understanding that this poem is applicable to any disadvantaged area. In this piece, Harlem is a symbolic place used as an example of poverty.


Mentality: This poem highlights the mentality of people in disadvantaged areas in the first stanza. This is the mentality that everyone is for themselves as indicated in the line’ Everybody for hisself’. It also highlights the awareness of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This is the neutral viewpoint of ‘Good things for the ones that’s got’. This is an almost good for them attitude which translates to now I have to concentrate on myself.

Absence: In the second stanza we understand that in such an environment there is absence or lack. This is centred on resources like food and money.

Struggle: It helps highlight issues within disadvantages communities namely people ‘counting you out’ meaning not realising your worth and potential. The writer makes a light gesture that ‘that is what hopping is about’. Could this refer to the grind and hustle despite the hardship?

Poetic Devices
Rhyme: The use of rhyme helps make the deep and poignant message much digestible for the reader.

Overall, this piece is very insightful and I commend the writer ability to discuss an important issue in a light and playful manner.




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