Literary Analysis Of Still I Rise By Maya Angelou

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“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we’re going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don’t defeat death, they come to terms with it.”This quote by Laurence Gonzales, a scholar at the Sante Fe Institute and the winner of two National Magazine Awards, tremendously explain the meaning of survival. To live is to survive, to not bow down to death is to survive, and to choose life over death is to survive. In a simpler term, to survive mean to endure hardship and continue to exist after many difficulties that came along with life. Maya Angelou, an African American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, wrote the poem, ‘Still I Rise,’ as a way for her to speaks for her race, gender, and to emphasizes the strength and the resiliency of her community. Although this is true, her poem is also a perfect example of what it means to be a survivor. 

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The poem “Still I Rise”, is a very empowering poem all about the struggle to overcome prejudice and injustice. It is one of Maya Angelou’s most popular poems. The poem describes the way people judge her, the obstacles she faces during her lifetime, and the adversity in her life. Nevertheless, the poem is also about how she never let all of these struggle effect her. She will survive and rise while keeping her head high with self-respect because she is proud of what she is and who she was. The poem also addresses to the white oppressors of black persons by presenting us with a black woman willing to speak up for herself and her black ancestors. ‘Still I Rise,’ is divided into nine stanza. Stanza is a group of lines forming the basic recurring metrical unit in a poem, for example, a verse. 

Stanza one starts off with, ‘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.’ This part of the poem had a bitter and angry tone to it implied by Maya words choice of the words ‘bitter” and “twisted.’ While on the other hand, the word ‘You’ clearly addressed to others. And by other, I believe it is addressed to the white oppressors of black persons. While ‘I’ addressed to herself and her ancestor. Maya stated in this part of the poem that the history book created by the oppressors had portrayed her ancestors in a bad light, which arouse hostility to her community. She also says, that even though white oppressors may treat her and her ancestor with enormous disrespect and violence. She will not let that impact her in a negative way and like the dust, she rises above these negative stuff and continues with her life. A survivor is someone like this. They rise against whatever prejudice they had to face. They continue to live and show others that they live with hope. And as this poem stated, they maybe treat like the dirt in the grown where people step on, but like the dust, they will rise and at the same time choose to live and see what the world had to offer. 

While on the other hand, stanza Two had a very cheeky, comical, and confident tone to it. What intriguing me the most about stanza two is that this time, Maya goes into the oppressor’s emotion. She already knows why the oppressors are feeling unhappy, but still, she asks the oppressors, ‘Does my sassiness upset you?, Why are you beset with gloom?’ She asks these questions in a very cheeky way that make the reader understand the funny intention. Conversely, her statement, ‘ Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room.’ says that she is very confident of who she is. She is mocking the oppressor’s within the poem by stating clearly how her self-assured walk must be depressing for him. She is not weighed down by his oppression at all. This quote is a metaphor because if a person had an oil well within their house, of course, they will be so happy that they will walk with confidence all the time. Oil well makes a lot of money. 

Stanza three: ‘Just like moons and like the sun, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I rise.’ The sunrise every morning, the moon rises every night. These two things will always be going up in the sky 100% all the time. And like these two things, she will rise and had high hope. This quote shows how certain of Maya of herself and how certain she is when it comes with facing off obstacles. She is comparing herself to the element which is timeless and full of strength. 

In the poem, Stanza four, have a very accusing tone to it. The speaker (Maya) again questions the oppressor’s in a pertinent, direct, and appropriately accusing tone. She asks, ‘Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries?’ Maya herself is fully aware of what her ancestor been though, and how her success in the industry was received with bitterness by racist people. So I feel like she asks these question to the people who look down upon her in a very comical voice to show that whatever that was throw at her will bounce back. The questions that Maya ask are the things that what the oppressors expects her to act like, and when she ask these question back to the oppressors, it leaves a funny feeling to it. 

Stanza five and stanza seven are similar to the previously stanzas because Maya is asking questions to the oppressors and is relating her feeling to wealth again. Last time she relative her feeling to oil well but this time she relative her feeling to gold mines and diamonds. Stanza five start off, ‘Does my haughtiness offend you?’ Maya again is asking a rhetorical question. She asked this question in order to create a dramatic effect or to make a point rather than to get an answer. The second part of stanza five is ‘Don’t you take it awful hard, Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines Digging in my own background.’ Now Maya is showing how proud she is to be herself. She has no shame of who she is. The metaphor about having gold mines at her background shows that she is who she is. ‘Does my sexiness upset you? Does it comes as a surprise That I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs.’ This quote came from stanza seven and are similar to the previous stanza. Contrast to stanza five and stanza seven, stanza six is not like the previous stanzas. This time stanza six showcases what a survivor is truly is. 

Stanza six quote,’ 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.’ Maya is saying that the oppressors may use words to criteria her and say hurtful words to her to kell her, they may want to murder her with words and eyes, she will still rise. She is confident that whatever hurt her, it will not harm her. And a survivor is someone like this. The word survivor just suggests a survivor of a natural occurrence or tragedy like a plane crash or tornado, but to me, survivor means so much more and can be seen in so many different ways. So that why I believe a survivor is someone who gone past a tragedy like racism and someone who gone past the dark side and see no light but still able to not give up. On to stanzas eight and nine. 

Stanza eight start off with ‘Out of the huts of history’s shame, I rise, Up from a past that rooted in pain.’ Based on Poem Analysis, what Maya mean by this quote is that she is making a reference to the huts in which slaves were once housed. She emerg from that sad place. She then proclaims to say that she will not be held down by the past, even if it is “rooted in pain”. By ‘rooted in pain’ I believe Maya is making a reference to all the oppression that black people have experienced, from slavery to segregation. 

Lastly, the poem says, ‘I’m a black ocean, leaping, and wide, Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.’ Maya declares herself a “black ocean,” referencing to her race and relate herself to the ocean which is a powerful force of nature because the ocean is wide and always leaping and swelling, so like how Maya rise above the pain and how she held in the tide. She refuses to be pushed down by a tidal wave or a group of oppressors. 

16 August 2021

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