How Do Maya Angelou and Grace Nichols Communicate What It Means to Be a Black Woman in Today's Society?

Topics: Black people, White people, Race and Ethnicity Pages: 7 (3219 words) Published: January 24, 2011
How do Maya Angelou and Grace Nichols communicate what it means to be a black woman in today’s society? In this essay I will compare two poems. The two poems I will compare is Maya Angelou’s ‘Still I rise’ to Grace Nichols’ ‘Of course when they ask for poems about the ‘realities’ of Black women’. I think Maya Angelou’s ‘Still in rise’ has a rather different message to Grace Nichols’ poem. I think they are interesting to compare because Maya Angelo is lively and spirited about writing a poem about how strong black women are and how it is to be a black woman in today’s society. Whereas, Grace Nichols is more disgruntled and irritated about writing her poem. The first poem I will scrutinize is Maya Angelo’s ‘Still I rise’. The title ‘Still I rise’ shows strength and optimism as it is a short but strong meaning title. It means that Maya Angelou will always defend herself. It makes you feel no matter what you do to Maya Angelou she will just get back up again. This makes you believe that Maya Angelou is a strong person. In the first verse, Maya Angelou starts off using an accusatory tone when she says ‘you may write me down in history with you bitter, twisted lies’. This gives the impression that she is talking to white people when she says this. I think this means she doesn’t like what white people have wrote in their history books about black people’s past as it is over exaggerated and a lot of lies. Near the end of the first verse, she uses the simile ‘but still like dust, I’ll rise’. This is once again reinforcing the idea that she is a strong black woman. By using this simile she is also comparing herself and her race to dust and this suggests that you can’t get rid of black people and that they are everywhere you go, as dust is hard to get rid of and it is everywhere as you can’t control or capture it. In the second verse, Maya Angelou is more lively and spirited when she says ‘Does my sassiness upset you?’ This suggests that she is getting more confident as she progresses through the poem. She also uses two rhetorical questions to grip the reader’s attention ‘why are you beset with gloom?’ Also, in the second verse she shows more confidence when she uses the phrase ‘‘cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room.’ The use of informal language ‘cause’ shows this. This phrase also makes me think that she feels powerful, rich and important. In the third stanza, she uses a lot of similes such as ‘Just like moons and like suns’ I think she has put this simile in because it is natural imagery and she wants black people to be described as this because it is not only a part of nature but the sun and moon are beautiful; vital to the world. In the next line she continues with the natural imagery by saying ‘With certainty of tides’. This is also natural imagery as she is comparing the black race with tides. I think she chose to use the natural imagery of tides here because not only is it once again vital to the world but it also creates a sense of power as tides and waves are incontrollable, powerful and constant and waves always come back so I think maybe she was also trying to reinforce the idea that she and her race are strong. However in the fourth verse, she stops using natural imagery and changes into an interrogative mode when she says ‘did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes?’ Here she uses negative lexis such as ‘broken’ to create an image of a typical slave to the reader. I think she does this here as she wants to show people that herself and her race are not slaves and that you should not dwell on their past and think of them as slaves. In the fifth stanza, it’s more about her culture when she uses the simile ‘cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines’ I think she is implying here that she is not rich in wealth but she is rich in culture and in spirit. I think this changes the atmosphere to a more relaxed mood as she is embracing her culture. Also, when she says ‘diggin in my own...
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