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World Author Website Project

Theme Analysis for "Still I Rise"

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            One of Maya Angelou’s most celebrated poems is “Still I Rise.” Through it, Angelou conveys her sense of confidence, African-American pride, feminism, independence, and beauty.

            Angelou begins her poem with, “You may write me down in history/With your bitter, twisted lies.” With the first two lines of her poem, Angelou transmits to her audience the immense confidence she has within her. She uses this approach because she likes to be seen as a strong person. As she continues, Angelou questions her reader with rhetorical questions to further underline her self-confidence.

            At various points in the poem “Still I Rise,” Angelou alludes to her African-American roots and shows pride in being Black. She says, “Up from a past that’s rooted in pain/I rise,” and refers to herself as “a black ocean.” When she was younger, Angelou had a misconception that Blacks were inferior to Whites, but now she wants to express that Blacks are not inferior. Instead, Angelou feels all people are equal and she shows pride in being African-American so that others who read her works will validate Blacks as equals, too.

            Maya Angelou is often heard as a man, due to her deep voice, but through her poems, one cannot doubt her feminism. In “Still I Rise,” she writes “Does my sexiness upset you?/Does it come as a surprise/That I dance like I’ve got diamonds/At the meeting of my thighs?” Even while growing up, Angelou experienced gender discrimination because of the era she was born in. She never agreed with it, however, and in this poem she flaunts her womanhood.

            Angelou never truly experienced love in her childhood, and instead she gained independence from her experiences. As an adolescent, not many would accept a woman’s independence, but Angelou continued to be strong in her beliefs. She shows her independence in the poem “Still I Rise” where she writes, “Why are you beset with gloom?/’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells/Pumping in my living room.” Through these lines, Angelou is defying the stereotype that woman are not fit to work, earn money, or manage money.

            Too many people become timid because of their body mass, for instance if they are overweight. Maya Angelou is physically heavy set, but she does not let that factor bring her down. As an alternative, she shows pride in her physical attributes. Angelou writes, for example, “Does it come as a surprise/That I dance like I’ve got diamonds/At the meeting of my thighs,” and “I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,/Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.” She is accepting her psychical appearance and is putting it in a positive outlook.

            Maya Angelou is a person who has undergone more life experiences than many people on this earth. As a writer, she communicates her experiences through her works, and they often become the theme of many of her pieces. “Still I Rise” is one piece that covers several of Angelou’s experiences.