This Land is Your Land, Incomplete
The poem “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie is originally a seven stanza poem that is often cut short in the recorded versions known to many. The poem’s main element is imagery of America’s landmarks to evict an emotion out of the reader. The first four stanzas have a much more celebratory tone compared to the final three. In the recorded versions, the last three stanzas are cut out, so as to not dampen the joyful tone of the song. The change in tone of the poem is easily broken into two parts.
The first part makes the reader feel proud of America by describing some of its national symbols and declaring in the last lines of each stanza. “This land was made for you and me.” (4,8,12,16.) These first four stanzas have a common theme of Guthrie ...view middle of the document...
This tone changes the main line “This land was made for you and me” from a joyful voice to a sadder, matter of fact, realization of reality. Guthrie sights of “No Trespassing” signs (18.) and his people being hungy (20.) are obviously different from the favorable and pleasant sights in the first part.
Now the final lines that finish these last three stanzas do not have the joyful voice declaring that “this land was made for you and me.” In the next to last stanza, “In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, By the relief office I seen my people; As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking Is this land made for you and me?” Guthrie begins to doubt if he really belongs in this land. He identifies himself amongst the less fortunate people in America and realizes that maybe this land is not for everyone. This stanza allows the reader to view America from another perspective of the “have-nots” while the first four where from the “haves.” After reading these final three stanzas, reading the poem over again brings upon a bitter sweetness for the first part.
In Johnny Cash’s recorded version, only the first four stanzas were sung. The song was a happy and cheerful version that put melody to the poem. Leaving out the last part in mainstream recordings and song singing in classrooms is now understandable. This poem is used as a patriotic cheer to celebrate America. It is natural for every American to want to be proud of their country. To include the last three stanzas in the song would take away from that celebration and bring about a more somber use of it. When you think of Fourth of July, we celebrate with fireworks and parties, not somber songs that question our greatness.
Guthrie, Woody. This Land Is Your Land. N.p.: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2011. 249. APUS. ebooks. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.