The New Colossus

This study guide will help you analyze the poem “The New Colossus” (1883) by Emma Lazarus, which can be found in Worlds of English, p. 101. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective
Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was an American poet and activist. She is famous for the poem “The New Colossus”, which was written in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, the poem was engraved on a bronze plaque installed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.


The speaker of the poem “The New Colossus” begins by claiming that the New Colossus will not resemble the Colossus of Rhodes, which represents a statue of the Greek god Helios. Unlike the Colossus of Rhodes, which celebrates military success, the New Colossus will represent a woman holding a torch. The woman’s figure is calm and comforting, and her light guides immigrants between New York City and Brooklyn. The New Colossus addresses European countries and asks them to send their poor unfortunate people in search of freedom her way, as she awaits them and lights their way to America. 


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Inner composition

The inner composition of the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus begins with the contrast between the Colossus of Rhodes, from Greece, and the New Colossus in America. 

The Colossus of Rhodes is described as a “brazen giant of Greek fame” (l. 1), with “conquering limbs astride from land to land” (l. 2). This description of the statue of the Greek God Helios depicts male power and highlights the fact that it symbolizes military success. In contrast, the New Colossus represents a “mighty woman” (l. 4) with a calm and motherly attitude:

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridge harbour that twin cities frame. (ll. 4-8)

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The New Colossus

  • 17.12.2022