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The Analysis of the Poem ’Still I Rise’ By Maya Angelou

This essay describes the analysis of the poem ‘Still I Rise ‘by Maya Angelou. Marguerite Annie Johnson Angelou was a renowned American actress, author, poet, dancer, civil rights activist, and screenwriter. Her 1969 memoir ‘I know why the caged bird sings’ was one of her best works as it made history in that it was the first nonfictional bestseller by a woman of color. Maya Angelou was an award-winning college professor and can be considered one of the most influential women of her era. The poem ‘still I rise’ is a motivational and empowerment message to fight injustice and prejudice. The poem one of the most popular poems by Maya Angelou. The poem is a pillar of hope for the subjugated and exploited members and victims of wrongdoings in society. It gives them the morale to move on with life regardless of being looked down upon by their exploiters. It is also a reckoning to those in leadership on the importance of equality, equity, and doing good to others. Therefore the poem is a message of hope to the hopeless and helpless promising them better days ahead.

The primary thesis of Maya’s poem ‘still I rise’ is exhibited through her tone and diction. She uses precise, bitter, and is even sarcastic in some instances of her poem, as shown in lines one to four (1-4 of) the poem. “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.” You may trod me in the very dirt, But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” [1-4] Maya’s direct pointing out bitter ways of viewing her is clear. The sarcastic nature of Maya’s tone can be seen in her use of words such as trod, twisted, and bitter, among others. Maya’s diction and tone are very prominent in the poem. Her use of imagery and personification in the poem enables the reader to relate and visualize her words. The following lines are examples of instances of personification in the poem; “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.” These instances of personification enable the reader to create mental images (imagery) in the poem. For instance, a reader can create a mental image of the persona being shot with words, cut with eyes, and killed with hatefulness. They, therefore, create an atmosphere of aggression and hate.

Similarly, Maya Angelou has also used various sound styles in the poem. These styles create rhythm in the poem as they enhance the poem’s memorability. Sound styles also create rhyme in a poem hence making it easy to the reader for recitement. In the poem ‘still, I rise, ‘some of the sound styles evident include alliteration, consonance, and repetition. Alliteration refers to the repetition of the same initial consonant sound at the beginning of words close to each other in a poem. Out of the huts of history’s shame [29]– in this line, alliteration is evident in the repetition of the initial consonant sound /h/ in the words huts and history’s.

Moreover, the line; that I dance like I’ve got diamonds [27]– Similarly, the line portrays the repetition of the initial consonant sound /d/ in the words dance and diamonds is an instance of alliteration. Consonance is a sound style in which there is the repetition of the same consonant sound at the end of words that are close to each other in a poem; for example, in the line; Welling and swelling I bear in the tide [32], there is the repetition of the consonant sound /g/ in the words welling and swelling. Also, several words and phrases have been repeated in the poem to create an emphasis on Maya’s thematic concerns. For instance, the phrase I’ll rise has been used severally to emphasize her desire and hope to be better.

Maya’s poem ‘still I rise’ primary thematic concern is self-confidence and respect. She portrays how she will surpass all the hate speech and feelings against her through her esteem, and it shows that there is nothing that can get her down, and if the hardships manage to make her fall, she will still rise over and over again. The poem is a proclamation of her determination to attaining her success, and she would not allow hateful speeches and unjust deeds to take her down. The following are some lines of the poem that portrays the theme of self-esteem and determination at its best. “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.” [21-24]


Angelou, Maya, and Heywood Hale Broun. Still, I rise. Jeffrey Norton Publishers, 1994.


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