Still I Rise by Maya Angelou

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"Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou is a controversial piece of artwork that uses the figurative language. The poem has an interesting mixture of tones that are obvious as one reads through Maya Angelou's artwork. The tones you wuld find are comical, defiant, self-assuring, bitter and playful. On the other hand, the sound of triumph overshadows the others just like the title describes. The lyrics come as a message that is directed towards the oppressed, abused, and neglected in the society. THe message is straightforward and concise. The message carried forth in the song indicates that irrespective of the cruelty, the method of oppression and the challenges that will face the speaker, she will overcome them and rise again. Despite the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou being emotive and stirring, the adequate use of the figurative language and tone as well as the theme of an individual's hope ‘I Rise' played a significant role in its intriguing nature.

The poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou has forty-three lines that play an integral role in reinforcing the underlined theme of ‘I Rise' with its repetition occurring in mantra fashion. The persona in the poem addresses the oppressor as indicated by "You may write me down in history"(line 1) and "You may trod me in the very dirt"(line 3) the speaker addresses the oppressor with a lot of confidence in her ability to rise after a series of oppressive actions.

The speaker and tone in the poem

The persona in the poem is a lady who has undergone and still suffers from several challenges and oppressions as "You may shoot me with your words"(line 21) and "Does my sexiness upset you?"(line 25) reveal. A triumphant tone is most evident in the poem, and several sounds are occurring as one reads through Maya Angelou's piece of poetry. The song portrays the defiance tone in the by the fact that on more than one occasion, the persona tries to prick the oppressors' conscience by reminding bringing forth past instances of their wrongdoings as well as the present realities. The poem reveals defiance through "Out of the huts of history's shame/ I rise"(line 29&30) as well as "Up from the past that's rooted in pain/ I rise"(line 31&32). Besides, the arrogant self-confidence exuberated by the persona "Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise"(line 25&26) further reveals the defiant tone.

The triumphant tone is evident in the entire poem as the leading tone of the persona. The theme as well as the title of the poem "Still I Rise" underline the triumphant tone. Besides, the triumphant tone is revealed by "You may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I'll rise"(line 3&4) and "Just like hopes springing high/Still I'll rise"(line 11&12). Similarly, the elements of triumph are evidenced by "You may kill me with your hatefulness, /But still, like air, I'll rise"(line 23&24) as well as "Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, /I am the dream and the hope of the slave. /I rise"(line 39,40&41)

Imagery in the poem

Imagery refers to the use of language and words to represent objects or situations. Elements of representation are evident in the poem "Still I Rise." Maya Angelou applies imagery to relay her thoughts in the poem. The persona is keen to notice that the people in her community are "beset with gloom"(line 6) due to her success. Besides, she reveals the proof with regards to her prosperity by "Cause I walk like I've got oil wells/ Pumping in my living room"(line 7&8). Moreover, the prospect of her beauty intrigues the mind to form images since she confidently asks "Does my sexiness upset you?"(line 25) as a confirmation of her sexy nature. Similarly, "At the meeting of my thighs"(line 28) underlines the degree of sexiness harbored by the persona. The aspect of availing the ancestral gifts in the poem plays an integral part in imagery "Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave"(line 39) gives a glimpse of hope to the oppressed.

Diction and syntax

Maya Angelou's choice of words in her poem "Still I Rise" is effective in relaying the intended information to the readers. The selection of terms such as "Shoulders falling down like teardrops"(line 15) and "That I dance like I've got diamonds"(line 27) is integral to the understanding of the poem. The song is made up of forty-three lines of seven quatrains that play a significant role in reinforcing the poem's title. The stanzas are well correctly defined and outlined with a rhyme scheme of abcb at the opening verses, at the end the rhyme scheme changes to abcc and aabb ensuring the poem has a solid ending.

Figures of speech

The poem has several figures of speech with similes as "But still, like dust, I'll rise" and "That I dance like I've got diamonds"(line 27) enable the creation of images. The similes in the poem are vital in emphasizing the state of the speaker. Metaphors are present in the song "I am the dream and the hope of the slave"(line 40) they ensure imagery is evident in the poem. "You may kill me with your hatefulness"(line 23) underline the use of personification in the poem. Besides, "Just like hopes springing high"(line 11) play an integral role in ensuring stressing the extent of oppression and hope respectively. The persona has used the rhetorical question "Does my sexiness upset you?"(line 25) to persuade the reader that the she is not aware of the issue that prompted the oppressor to harass, oppress and belittle her.


The poem "Still I Rise" has utilized the element of symbolism to a greater degree. "You may shoot me with your words"(line 21) and "You may kill me with your hatefulness"(line 23) reflects on the level of aggression used by the oppressors towards the speaker. On the contrary, the repetition of "I'll rise." In the poem symbolizes the level of resilience embraced by the persona in the poem. "But still, like air, I'll rise"(line 24) expresses that whatever challenge the persona faces, she is bound to overcome and rise again. The element of air reveals the fact that no killing or shooting activity is required to stop the speaker from growing again since no one can shoot or kill the air.

Rhythm and meter

The poem has a rhythm as there is an existence of rhyming words which in turn ensure there is a rhyming effect. The presence of full rhymes such as hard/backyard, eyes/cries, surprise/thighs and wide/tide underline the rhythm in the poem. The poem "Still I Rise" has an irregular rhythm. As a result, the poem "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou does not bring musicality element. Moreover, the poem does lack meter. The lack of meter is attributable to the irregular rhythm present in the song.

Works Cited

Angelou, Maya. And Still I Rise. New York: Random House, 1978. Document.

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