This study guide will help you analyze the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Amanda Gorman (b. 1998) is an American poet and activist. She is the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate in April 2017. She recited her poem, “The Hill We Climb” at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration, which took place on January 20, 2021. She is the youngest inaugural poet ever.
Here, you can read an extract from our study guide:
Metaphors and symbols
The poem relies heavily on metaphors and symbols, which are used to create a powerful imagery that supports the content.
An important symbol in the story is the light. The poem opens with the search for “light in this never-ending shade” (l. 1), and it ends with the people of America emerging “out of the shade, aflame and unafraid” (l. 58), into the “new dawn” (l. 58). This suggests that light symbolizes democracy, and perhaps also accomplishment and well-being, the ideals towards which people aim for in life. Light is seen as a force of good, contrasted with the “never-ending shade” (l. 1) which symbolizes fear, conflict, and ignorance.
The hill, also present in the title of the poem, symbolizes the obstacles which the American nation has to overcome on its way to achieving democracy. The poem promotes tolerance and acceptance, as well as unity, recognizing that this can be difficult to achieve and that some may consider it a struggle. This is why the attempts to do so are compared to a “hill we climb, if only we dare” (l. 27), as well as a “sea we must wade” (l. 2). Both actions imply a focused effort and determination. It also speaks for a continuous, long-term effort, rather than a sudden outburst of energy, which then fizzles out.