Maya Angelou is the author of thirty best-selling books. In a famous autobiography she wrote a novel titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. In this story she composes a chapter remembering her childhood called “Champion of the World.” This chapter is a memoir during the late 1930’s when Joe Louis became an African American hero by defending his heavyweight title against a white contender in a boxing match. Throughout “Champion of the World” Maya Angelou uses language, rhythm, and actions of character to create suspense, tension, and anticipation for the reader.
First, Maya Angelou implies a strong rhythm to the story. The reader can easily recognize when suspense is occurring because the sentences become shorter. For example, when Angelou and her family thought the Joe Louis was about to lose the sentences were about three to four words long. “My race groaned. It was our people falling.” “We didn’t breathe. We didn’t hope. We waited.” The choppiness of these sentences grew very dramatic. Though, as things were getting better for the African American boxer, the sentences grew longer; “There were a few sounds from the audience, but they seemed to be holding themselves in against tremendous pressure.” When the sentences lengthened, the suspense diminished. Despite the volume of sentences throughout the story, Maya Angelou also uses ellipses to form rhythm. Ellipses were used a few times in the story, but it is greatly emphasized at the end of the match. “Here’s the referee. He’s counting. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… Is the contender trying to get up again?” “Let’s get the microphone over to the referee… Here he is. He’s got the Brown Bomber’s hand, he’s holding it up… Here he is…” “The winnah, and still heavyweight champeen of the world… Joe Louis.” All of these sentences are building up tension to keep reading because the reader can feel the anticipation of the ending.
Furthermore, the language in this piece is unusual. The author uses the...
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