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Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

Page history last edited by jordan jowsey 11 years, 1 month ago

Still I Rise synopsis:

Still I rise is a poem written about the oppression that was rife through American society. Maya Angelou uses a confrontational tone to show the strength of of her spirit in persuing the injustices committed against her. The poem is daring as it could be considered as a challenge from Angelou. The poem is very accusatory, yet it also inspires hope amongst victims of oppression. It reflects angelous background in theatre, music and dance through rhthym and lyrical style. It draws from Angelou's personal experiences as an emmisary of African American rights around the globe.


Still I Rise  
by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

- The use of pronouns in the first stanza gives the poem an accusatory tone, causing the reader to acknowledge that they may play a part in oppressing others in their own lives. Angelou talks to her readers as if she were directly addressing those who had oppressed her.

- Although Angelou uses first person pronouns, she is speaking on behalf of all African Americans and anyone else who has faced racial discrimination.

- "Bitter twisted lies" is a harsh-sounding line that draws negative connotations into the reader's mind and the sharp 't' sound makes the line feel uncomfortable and alludes to the pain and harsh reality that Angelou faced on a daily basis.

- Angelou says that she will not let the lies and misrepresentation of African Americans tear her down any more.

- "Tred" is both literal and metaphorical. It is literal in that it is likely that Angelou was physically thrown to the ground and trampled because of the colour of her skin. It is metaphorical in that African Americans were treated like "dirt" and were seen as inferior to 'white' Americans.

- Angelou says that her oppressors can do what they want, but she will not let their mistreatment bring her down anymore.

- The whole stanza is written in a way that exudes strength and determination. It is hopeful for Angelou's readers, while encouraging them to look at their own lives and see whether they are harming anyone else and causing them to feel the shame and weakness that she once felt.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

-rhetorical questions confront the oppressor, and reminds them that the persona is proud of  who she is and that they should be ashamed of their closed mindedness.

- Oil wells is connotative of Southern imagery and reiterates the brutality of the enviroment that she is living in. 

- "Cause" serves as a reminder of her heritage in the form of colloquial language. 



Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Cyclic imagery of the moons and suns. Relates persona to a natural, powerful force that is relentless and unstoppable. "Springing high" shows the passion inspired by the Black Civil Rights movement/equality in general. Reinforces the idea of hope and passions are being renewed in following generations.  
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Rhetorical question - directly speaks to reader, creates intimacy and directly tries to engage with reader (and oppressors).

Simile - suggests a broken spirit by linking emotional defeat through the shoulders that are drooping physically

Emotive words - appeals to the heart of the reader by evoking sympathy. Negative connotations that have links to slavery

Personal pronouns - speaks to reader directly and creates relationship with reader and poet. 

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.

- the constant repetition of rhetorical questions conveys an aggressive attitude. however this is not in a hateful sense but in one that is progressive and moving towards enlightenment.

- The rhetorical questions also set up a clear stanza structure and developes a very lyrical rhthym which has helped to make Angelou's peotry so effective.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

- Personification of words shoot, cut and kill.

- "Shoot, cut and kill" relate to the "painful history" - reality - effect emotion

- Shoot, cut and kill - weapons (gun) - racial prejudice towards African Americans

- "You" - pronoun (relating to the oppressor)

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

"Huts of history's shame" - "huts bears connotations to Africa, tribal history

- Change of rhythm, denotes change in persona or voice from challenging rhetoric to assertive statement.

- More communal references, begins speaking as a group rather than an individual e.g. Reference to wider concepts like ocean, past, history.

- Rising imagery (" Up from"), growth imagery (" rooted in pain", "rooted" gives a sense of a history of past injustices)

- Natural imagery e.g. ocean. Cyclical behaviour of nature parallels the cyclical nature of human nature e.g. Oppression!

- "Bear in the tide", bearing in a tide of change. Ocean reinforces the idea that change and revolution is an unstoppable force, likening it to that of a force of nature. 

- Water imagery suggests the cleansing nature that change and equality can have on past suffering. 


Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.
"I rise" - present tense as apposed to future tense (in previous stanzas) leaves the reader with the impression that now is the time for action.



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