Analysis of Still I Rise
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Maya Angelou, a presence in United States society, has risen against formidable odds. After being raped at age eight and after withdrawing for a couple years, with the help and inspiration of a grade school teacher, Angelou rose to revert herself. Eventually, she became the first African-American street car conductors in San Francisco. She traveled to Africa and asserted herself in dance. Despite the shortening of a brief marriage, Angelou continued to assert herself, drawing inspiration as the mother of her son. Her presentation to the American public-at-large happened with the publication of her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The purpose of this research is to focus on the poem, “Still I Rise” to analyze the significance of Angelou’s twofold strategy: the impact of the question she poses to the public; and her assertion of her heritage as a foundation for her perpetual advancement.
The impact of the question that she poses to the public can be applied in two ways. The first way that Angelou used it was as a woman, for instance she wrote, “Does my sexiness upset you?”, and in a stanza prior to that, she wrote, “Does my sassiness upset you?”, she used the fact that she was a woman as a way to let men know sensuality and sexiness was okay and at the same time she demanded respect from them. She also posed the question, “Did you want to see my broken? Bowed head and lowered eye?” which to me sounded like a question posed to the white race from the black race. As a black, educated woman in the United States in 1978 when this poem was
written, she was posing questions like as these to let the white race that black people can in fact excel and be successful, despite our history of slavery and oppression.
In this poem it appeared as if Angelou was tried to show that despite all the trials and tribulations she had been through all those years, she still managed to prevail in many different ways. Angelou was raped at the young age of eight, and lived in silence for four year, and became a mother at the age of seventeen. She has been through much more, but she also has written many poems, books, traveled worldwide, and used her previous experiences to help others live a better life. “Still I Rise” is a poem that focuses on the courage, survival, and pride in one’s self, which can also be applied to the African-American race towards the white race, as well as personally to oneself.
In the first stanza Angelou talked about her relationship with history, and body’s relationship with the earth. Angelou wrote about how the body can be beaten down into the ground, but will decompose and turn into the earth just as soil and dust do, meaning that our bodies are just flesh but our spirit is what keeps us alive and going after the flesh is damaged. Angelou also asked the rhetorical question, “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom?” as a question to people in society, because African-Americans, were not looked at very highly back in those times, and women were considered objects that should be told what to do by men, and so the fact that she was so sassy meant that Angelou wasn’t just going to sit back and wait for a man to tell her what to do. Angelou also mentioned how she carried herself like she had all the money in the world, which was different for her because she grew up with almost nothing, but that is how you have to be because otherwise people will take advantage of the fact that you don’t have much, but if you don’t let it get you down, they’ll never know.
The second stanza shows how you can carry yourself in a positive way even though you may not be perfect or have everything you want. In the third stanza, Angelou related her attitude with the certainty of nature, and explained how nature and people’s hopes are certain facts that will never end. For example, the sun will always rise just like moons, just like the tides and people’s hopes will always rise.
Maya Angelou described her ability to overcome anything that happened to her in this poem, for example, “You may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.” Angelou seemed as if she may have been addressing someone in this poem, or she may have written it as something for others to have to able to boost their self-confidence. The three middle stanzas basically were Angelou saying that she did, she can, and she will overcome whatever adversity she was faced with. In a way she taunted the reader, by saying something similar to, “You thought I couldn’t do it, but look at me now!”, then she asked if her level of pride was offensive, and then went on to say that she didn’t care if it was. After all the teasing and taunting, Angelou said that you can try to hurt in any way you desire but she will still overcome it.
In the third part of the poem Angelou made a reference to her