Still I Rise Analysis: Written by Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” was published by The Random House in 1978. Born in 1928, Maya has faced a traumatic childhood and very problematic adulthood. Her history of past life made her start writing which not just became a voice for her but also for thousands and thousands of people who have had traumatic experiences and has been oppressed in society for racism and other negative things.
Besides being such a talented poet, she is a memoirist and also a civil rights activist. She has received a handful of awards for her memorable works and accumulated over more than fifty honorary degrees. She is quite popular among the readers for her seven biographies that focus on her childhood and adult life. She spoke (read- screams) out about the long-oppressed African Americans, knows as the black people (a slang term).
Her works are really memorable, which speaks out for the oppressed people and is considered a defence for the African Americans. Maya Angelou’s most works are regarding her life story- what things she faced when growing up.
The poem “Still I Rise” is a voice for the black people, as it talks of the way society has tried to suppress the blacks. The poem is mighty and brings out a message that ‘society’s judgments cannot determine one’s success and that she would break all the boundaries laid by racism and rise above the society and be equal in everyone’s eyes.
Summary of Still I Rise Analysis
The poem is about the inner voice that finally speaks out in public. Though it was written with oppression in mind, it has a universal appeal. The message given out by the poem is loud and clear- no matter how much there has been tried to oppresses the victims, they will still rise and will rise high above the people who tried to oppress them. She (the poet) appreciates her own strength and is confident about what she says. On the one hand, the poem can be seen as a powerful, strong woman warning people of her strength (seen as a perspective of her past life and history) and, on the other hand, a voice for the suppressed black African Americans.
Still I Rise Analysis Structure and Form
The poem includes 47 lines in total, giving birth to seven quatrains and two end stanzas. The phrase “I rise” has been repeated like a mantra in the last stanza to emphasise it. The poem follows a rhyming scheme of ABCB for the first seven stanzas, and the eight and ninth stanzas follow a different rhyming scheme that knits the story together and gives a solid ending to the poem. The eight stanzas have a rhyming scheme of ABABCC, and the ninth has the rhyming scheme of ABABCCBBB.
Still I Rise Analysis Tone and Mood
Throughout the poem, the tone is the tone of a strong woman who screams for justice for her race. Her inner voice screams of all the wrongs that have been done to her while growing up. She screams for justice for her people. The tone’s confidence talks of the strength she has in herself to fight against all the odds.
Also, it indicates the love and compassion for her race which has been sadly oppressed and put under control for years. She has created a mood for protest, asking for justice for her people. The poem’s tone and mood have been set in such a way that when a reader finishes reading the poem, he will carry with him a spirit of truthfulness, strength, and a mood for protest against the wrongs done.
Still I Rise Analysis Poetic Techniques and Figurative Language
The poem is intertwined with figurative language and smiles with similes and metaphors knitted to almost every line. Various poetic techniques like anaphora, enjambment and alliteration have also been used.
Anaphora means the repetition of a phrase or a word at the beginning of multiple lines in a poem. One good example of anaphora used in the poem- the phrase “you may” has been used at the beginning line of the poem and again at the beginning of the third line of the first stanza.
Alliteration is the appearance of the same letter in closely connected words. For example, in the eighth stanza, “huts of history” is a perfect example. In the ninth stanza, words like “gifts” and “gave” have been used very closely, which is another example of using the rhetorical device alliteration in the poem.
Enjambment is a rhetoric device that forces the readers to jump to the next line and then the next. It basically occurs when a line or phrase is suddenly cut off at a point that is not the expected natural stopping point. Good examples are the transition between line two and line three of the first and line two of the second stanza.
A simile ( a rhetorical device ) is a comparison between two things that are interconnected with words like – “like” and “as”. one of the examples of a simile in the poem is found in the third stanza, “just like hopes springing high” and lines three and four of the fourth stanza ” laugh like I’ve got gold mines.”
Themes of Still I Rise Analysis
The major themes of the poem “Still I rise” are self-empowerment, injustice and perseverance. Throughout the piece of oppression, there’s a cry heard again and again. The “you” she refers to represents all the hard times and unequal treatment injustices that had to be fought among communities creating an unseen barrier with no rules for the prior community.
Still, the well-known history retains ashes over ashes to prove the major community’s evil stare towards others.She throws a prior self-derogatory way in which she thinks of a better half and trying it by herself; the poet is gentle and independent of her own self-doubt and addresses herself to be proud and loved even if there were thousands of barriers.
The poet seems to have empowered herself and tried to teach the basic concept of life, to never doubt one’s abilities, strength, beauty, intelligence, or worth cause all you are is what defines you; the reason to live is clear then. There were nights with crying, endless questions and terror revolving, but all the poet knew it was confidence and the last slash of hope.
Still I Rise Analysis Stanzas
Analysis of the Poem, Stanza by Stanza-
”You may write me down in history.
With your bitter, twisted lies,…
……But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
Analysis- In the first stanza, Maya Angelou gives her all to prove that nothing and no soul on earth can oppress her or keep her from rising. She turns a blind eye to the history books write about her as she knows that they are filled with “twisted lies”. She doesn’t care if others “trod” her “in the very dirt.” No matter what they do, she will rise.
”Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
Pumping in my living room.”
Analysis– The second stanza opens with a question. She asks the listener if her sassy tone is upsetting them. The poet notices that the people in her society are “beset with gloom” whenever she achieves success. She is very well aware that she has succeeded in life as a writer and, more importantly, as a woman.
”Just like moons and like suns,
…..Still, I’ll rise.”
Analysis- In this stanza, she compares herself with the sun and the moon because of how they are affected by tides. This helps give the readers a clear understanding of how much society tries to keep her down or oppress her; it is in her nature to rise higher and stand against oppression just like the tides respond to the moon.
”Did you want to see me broken?
…..Weakened by my soulful cries?”
Analysis- The speaker’s questions in this stanza are somewhat curt, direct and accusing. She knows her success isn’t received well by the racist mindset of the people in her society. She aims these questions at the society that has been trying since the first day to oppress her.
She asks them if they want to witness her weakened and broken. She knows that her society does not like to see black women rising to power and using their voice against the oppression and racism prevalent among them. The speaker is well aware of these and tries to bring attention to them by asking these cutting questions.
”Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take…
….Diggin’ in my own backyard.”
Analysis- Here the poet tries to showcase the society scenario where it can’t watch up to a black woman full of pride and tries to oppress her in every sense in her success. The poets add a tone of sarcasm by pretending to have comforted the speaker, which wasn’t the actual thing. She took every allegation in such an awful comeback that she proves to be happy and gives zero interest to what people utter.
”You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with…
……But still, like air, I’ll rise.”
Analysis- The poet is now straightforward to the point that isn’t really easy going. She doesn’t care. Nothing can stop her from being successful. All the back talks and front mocks can’t get her into their way of judging looks and words. Even if it kills her, she’ll be like air.
”Does my sexiness upset you?…..
…..I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?”
Analysis- By now, the poet is convinced by her confidence and now questions society back in every way possible. She tactically asks the unanswered questions of which the poet is aware. Through this means, she reveals the immense self-confidence she has despite all the bully.
“Out of the huts of history’s shame
……..Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.”
Analysis- History turns it’s pages where shame is proven again and again. Slavery is a well-known text para, but here, the poet stands independent, thus clears her to wish to live free even if that means the destruction of her own breath.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Analysis- In the final stanza, the poet emphasises that she would leave behind the dark days of her past and rise in a clear splendid sky breaking all the barriers hat chained down her. She puts importance to the phrase “I Rise” by repeating it. The speaker does not hate to stop her from becoming what she had always dreamed of- rising above society.
Similar Poems of Still I Rise Analysis
Where all the hopes crashed upon, the only chance to create another morn was to lead down the crashes and gain through all the ashes. All the threats couldn’t handle the fearlessness. All that is empty was disabled. Everything was meant to be done without the promise of today.
The poem is based on how white was prevalent among all. Through every sense, it depicted good and, strangely, hinted at something bad. Black, you see!
All the madness and glory hindered by, where confidence raised it’s soul high. Every night had that sign of history repeating, terror and fear crossing over the innocent mind. The only tunnel through this dark beat was to rise high up. Skies are near, and hope is still alive. After all this time, where people pushed back, confidence pulled back. Then and there, the answer is craved. “Still I rise”.
Angelou is known for writing empowering poems that talk of the inner child who screams for justice for her wrongs in childhood and growing years. Another poem that talks of the oppressed are “I know why the caged bird sings “.
Some other similar poems are “Phenomenal Women” and “Women Work”. Works of other authors like Audre Lord’s “power” is also quite similar to this poem. Another poem named “Primer for Blacks” by Gwendolyn Brooks also has similar instincts to this poem penned by Maya Angelou.