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Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”

Maya Angelou was born on April 4th, 1928 in Saint Louis, Missouri, as Marguerite Ann Johnson. In her first novel ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ (1969), she described the first 16 years of her life and her traumatic experiences, one of them is that she was raped at age eight. The book brought her a National Book Award. Angelou was also the first black woman director in Hollywood. She has produced, directed and acted in various productions. She is also an author, poet, historian, songwriter, playwright, dancer, singer and civil rights activist and became a highly respected spokesperson for blacks and women (http://www. poets. org/poet. php/ prmPID/87).

Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” The Poem Analysis The poem consists of nine stanzas with each four lines, with a rhyme scheme of ABCB. The poem is written in the first person, what means that she is written about herself, the person she is talking to is the ‘white person’ and all the others people who did her wrong or tried to keep her down. Angelou’s power to overcome problems is seen in the use of the metaphor in stanza eight, line 3; “I’m a black ocean”. She compares herself to a strong force of nature.

In line 4 of stanza 9 we read another metaphor; “I’m the dream and the hope of the slave”, where she stresses her positive expression and her inner power. The used repetition of words is a way of emphasizing the meaning. Angelou repeats the words “Still I rise” and “You may” throughout the poem. By doing this, she lets the reader know that she will still be there, in full power and even more strong, after all what the world and what life can do to her. Angelou also asks the reader some rhetorical questions; “Does my sassiness upset you?

”, “Does my haughtiness offend you? ” and “Does my sexiness upset you? ”. These challenge the reader to think about the perception of her and African-American women in general. In these questions we can also see the comparisons she makes in the stanzas. Her ‘sassiness’ is seen in her “walk”, her ‘haughtiness’ is seen in her “laugh” and her ‘sexiness’ is in her “dance”. In a further analysis of these lines, the reader finds himself even more in the ‘private’ places of the writer as “living room”, “back yard” and “the meeting of my thighs”.

More comparisons are given in the use of several similes; “like dust”, “like moons”, “like stars”, “like hopes” and “like air”. Angelou explains to the reader that she is like nature; her power can not be undone by men. Her positive force is like the sand, tides and stars and will be there forever. The similes “like I’ve got oil wells”, “like I’ve got diamonds” and “like I’ve got gold-mines” show her wealth, her inner wealth. This wealth is also ‘hidden’.

Oil, diamonds and gold are hidden inside the earth. Here, Angelou tells us that her wealth, her richness, is hidden in her. People have to dig to uncover them. The message that she wants to transmit to the reader is that although she is African-American and although she is a woman, she is not afraid, she is strong and confident in herself. No matter what the others do to her, she will always be herself and she knows that everything will only make her stronger.

The overall feeling this poem gives to the reader, is respect for the writer, and respect for the African-American people in general. Apparently the writer has faced a lot of problems and hardships, but she still stayed strong. Her pride is written and read throughout the whole poem. The poem is also about, and specially ‘for’, the African-American people in general. It’s an exclamation of power, power of the people that came in history and are still here today; the power of the African soul, the pride these people had and still have.

Although other people tried to drive them down, tried to re-write history and tried to push them in the dirt, they should be proud and strong because their inner power will survive and win. As nature, their power lies in the strength of surviving. Others might think that they should walk in shame, cry and be sad. But walking with heads up, laughing out loud and dancing with joy, is the best way of defeating ‘the enemy’, or defeating the wrong that is done in the past. Works Cited Angelou, M. “Still I Rise. ” And Still I Rise. New York: Random House. 1978.

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