An Explication I of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”
The name Maya Angelou resonates with an entire race and culture. Of all her poems “Still I Rise” should be classified as the most introspective of them all. It is a personal journey into a world many of us have never seen or known. She speaks to an audience of oppressors and persecutors. She is allowing the reader to truly feel not only her pain but her boldness as well. Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” uses strong word choice and imagery to portray her courage to rise against these oppressors.
The poems first stanza opens with the line “You may write me down in history” and ends with “But still, like dust, I’ll rise” (line 1 and 4). The “you” and “I” are extremely important to this poem. The “you” is perceived to be the oppressor, and more bluntly the white race and the “I” is the black race. She is not only speaking for herself but also for her race. A “black ocean” (29) is another clear illustration of Angelou referencing her own race, which again allows the reader to understand that the poem is also about racism. The poem also shows the historical roots of slavery by using phrases like “history’s shame” and “a past rooted in pain” (29 and 31). It could be argued that the “you” she speaks about is specific only to her own life, but after references to slavery the interpretation of the “you” being a whole society of people makes more sense. This use of words takes this poem to a very personal level for the speaker as well as the reader.
The portrayal of the Angelou’s courage and strength is evident in her imagery throughout the poem. Her poem provides a constant wave of similes and metaphors, comparing how she continuously rises up against her oppressors like the moon and sun rise every day without opposition. Metaphors like “gold mines” and “oil wells” (19 and 7) give value to her words, and helps bring attention to her expansive self-worth. Angelou’s use of repetition is very powerful throughout the...
Cited: Angleou, Maya. “Still I Rise.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading
and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Robert Zweig. 10th Ed. New York:
Pearson Longman, 2012. 1136. Print
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