As it flows from his heart, the father is free. This image is one that runs counter to the typical image of money bringing all sort of happiness and solving all sorts of problems.
The poem moves full circle by the end with the poet recognizing that the country has become something of a prison for him as well. He admits he is “asleep in America too” (24) and unaware of how to wake himself. This admission at the poems conclusion demonstrates the shaping of the poets mind as well as the shaping of generations before and after him. While the poet feels there is a world of different between him and the student with the tongue stud, he realizes they are both within the same stream of time, doing the same things. This stream becomes the “river of bright merchandise” (31) that is nothing but a source of pleasure to all who float upon it. Here the poet is expressing sorrow for the loss of appreciation for how America came to be where it is. Even he, with wisdom and experience, falls prey to the clutches of an instant gratification society hell-bent on serving self first and foremost. The mention of Marxs cry insinuates that when societies begin to think only of themselves, and lose sight of future generations, they begin to lose their sense of value because selfish desire devalues everything.
The poet realizes the prison that is so obvious in the beginning of the poem manifests itself differently to different generations. The loss of a work ethic and sense of dignity associated with being American
In “America,” the poet brings everything from the subconscious into view by giving himself the freedom to understand his faults along with the faults of the younger generation. In this way, he uncovers how a nation born with such a fierce independent spirit can fall victim to slothfulness and apathy. “America” points to the reasons why this great nation will fail and the reason come from within rather than from outside. The fierce spirit of the men who founded this nation and fought to see her prosper with liberty and freedom is smothered by technology and the old-fashioned desire to have more. The dreams of the forefathers drown in that river of plenty and while Americans have much to be thankful for, the have fallen from the once appreciative state of mind that preserves freedom and liberty.