The notion of having a strong will and compassion in life is clearly outlined in the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. The poem is based on the foundations of confidence, inspiration and the call to stand up for ones rights regardless of the race and the predicaments encountered. The poem tackles issues such as feminism, which determines a woman’s position, attitude and how she is viewed in the world and generally, the predicaments the black population faced and the essence of keeping ones head up, regardless of the difficulties faced. The conviction in the poem is clearly and authoritatively brought from the onset of the poem as Angelou states,”… Still, like dust, I’ll rise”.
Angelou utilizes her life as an African-American woman to refer to the painful past of the black population and the courage to rise above this painful past as brought by this line, “….leaving behind nights of terror and fear, I Rise”. Her involvement as a woman exposes the essence of sensuality and sexiness to the world and commands respect from men (Angelou Maya 12). This is outlined in the stanzas where she poses, “Does my sexiness upset you?” and in a stanza before that, she asks, “Does my sassiness upset you?” The utilization of questions in the poem such as, “Did you want to see me broken?”, is intriguing as they are sarcastic and exposes the strong-will and aggressiveness, as a black, to inform the white race that even the black are able to excel, notwithstanding their past of oppression and slavery. Angelou involves this playful technique of asking questions to tease those who do not appreciate her and her success in overcoming obstacles as a black woman as well as the great efforts of the black people in America.
A lot of multi-syllabic words have been utilized in the various verses and a rhythmic course of the poem exists as one reads it. Several verses contain the same rhythm pattern syllable lines. For instance, verses two, four, five and seven have syllable lines of a b c b rhyme pattern. The remaining verses also tend to contain some type of syllable sound pattern but not as profoundly seen as the syllables found in verses four, five and seven (Angelou Maya 18). The utilization of similes in stanza five, “Cause I laugh like I have gold mines. Digging in my backyard” and prior to that, in stanza two, “Cause I walk like I got oil wells pumping in my room”, describes how the Angelou behaves and in general, the lifestyle of successful black people. The utilization of the word “goldmine” is figurative to wealth and how wealth could bring happiness and joy to ones life. This Imagery has played a great role in the success of laying the visual description of confidence message in the poem
Humour has been employed in the entire poem and yet still the conviction of the words is presented in metaphorical and figurative ways. Coming from a tough background that was defined by hardships, the author, Maya, still manages to express her moral and emotional strength by using this style. She humorously poses rhetorical questions that bring out her attitude and belief in attaining excellence. For example, she poses, “Does my sexiness upset you?” Another instance is when she inquires, “Does my haughtiness offend you?” Consequently, the employment of metaphors emphasizes on the general idea of rising above predicaments. The first, second and third lines in the sixth stanza exemplify the use of metaphors: - “You may shoot me with your words. You may cut me with your eyes. You may kill me with your hatefulness”. These phrases highlight the hurtful things one can be wished to encounter by his or her detractors but still, manage to outshine them, just as Maya puts it, “But still, like air, I’ll rise”. Furthermore, the words are hyperbolic to emphasize the hatred and brutal treatment.
In the final stanza, Angelou states her message clearly that she will prevail over racism when she poses, “Up from a past that’s rooted in pain I rise”. She alludes to the excruciating history her kinsmen had by stating, “Out of the huts of history’s shame”. The idea of inferiority in her people is brought out when she compares it to, “….a past that’s rooted in pain”. Regardless of all these predicaments, she still manages to “rise”. This phrase is continuously repeated in the final stanza to express her determination (Angelou Maya 26). The author uses metaphor when she says, “I am a black ocean”. This lays bare her strength and confidence and the fact that she cannot be stopped by anything. She comes out as an embodiment of optimism through the line, “I am the dream and hope of the slave”. The final line is filled with repetitions of “I rise” to accentuate her confidence and unrelenting effort to overcome these predicaments.
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The poem, “Still I Rise” takes care of horrific subjects such as racism, oppression and slavery and yet, it manages to inculcate the feeling of pride, confidence and hope in a reader. The emotional appraisal to rise above problems encountered in life and the fact that confidence is built, attests to the skill of poetry bestowed upon Angelou. She has clearly outlined the way to counter issues through her marvelous piece by giving us her experience. She has exposed that the human spirit can challenge and overcome any circumstance regardless of the magnitude. She gives inspiration when she refuses to be “broken”.