Still I Rise Analysis

Still I Rise 


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.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

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.

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?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

This poem is written with Maya Angelou herself as the speaker. She is speaking to her audience of oppressors about how she has overcome racism, criticism, sexism, and personal obstacles in her life with pride and grace. This poem is historically rooted with the mentions of slavery, a “past of pain,” and “gifts of ancestors,” however she is speaking in the present having overcome all of the hardships of her past and embarking on the rest of her journey with the knowledge that she is a strong African American woman. Still I Rise is about overcoming oppression with grace and pride, having no sympathy for the oppressors and giving to validity to the reasons for oppression. 

There is rhyme every other line for most of the poem that immediately guides the reader through the poem. The phrases “I rise” and “Still I rise” are used repetetively throughout the poem to show that the speaker continues to overcome each situation of oppression and each oppressor. Imagery is dominant in this poem, especially after Angelou questions her oppressors. She gives the us images like “I walk like I’ve got oil wells /Pumping in my living room” and “Shoulders falling down like teardrops” and ” I dance like I’ve got diamonds/ At the meeting of my thighs.” There is also the repeating image of air and dust rising. Much of her imagery is conveyed through similes and metaphors. This usuage of figurative languages gives us a very clear picture of what Angelou means and usually conveys a strong emotion. For example, when Angelou says “Shoulders falling down like teardrops,” we get an image of drooping shoulders (like the shape of a tear) and the tear itself is immediately associated with sadness. The two of these combined makes the images even stronger. The poem is more a narrative than anything else because Angelou interacts with her audience as she talks about the highs and lows of her life and history. 

The main symbol throughout the poem is that of rising dust. For dust to rise, it must be unsettled from the ground in some way and then forms a dust cloud. But once the dust has been unsettled from the ground, it can leave and RISE. This can be applied to Angelou’s overcome of the obstacles and her oppressors on the “ground” and rising above them all, unsettling and challenging the oppression. 

This poem has a very certain seriousness to it, but Angelou brings in her pride as an African American woman and injects playful images into the poem when questioning her oppressors. The stanzas that have questions show the direct relationship between the speaker and the audience, Angelou and her oppressors, and allows the reader to put themselves in the heat of the discussion and in the heart of the poem. The tone is one of sureness, pride, and grace. 

This online analysis says that the “you” that the poem is speaking to is the white race and that the “I” is the black race. This analysis says that the poem is a discussion between black and white, where the black, with Maya Angelou speaking, is taking pride in her heritage and what she has come from and intimidating the white race. This analysis says that “Maya is pretentiously assuring the audience that she will ‘rise” to any occasion and her color won’t hold her back.” After reading this analysis, I agree with the “you” being the white race. I thought before that the “you” had been specific to her own life, but this interpretation makes sense with the multiple references to slavery. 



19 Responses so far »

  1. kevinwegr5 said,

    April 1, 2009 @ 8:31 pm     

    I find it interesting how Angelou reflects on her own feelings as well as my poet (John Berryman) does. I feel that our poets are very much alike and very much different at the same time.

    On one hand, one of Berryman’s overall themes when writing a majority of his poems is bringing about everyday emotions, and it is widely inferred among scholars that these emotions refer to Berryman’s personal life. It seems that Angelou’s poetry also evokes many of these same ideas, and can easily lead to discussions on emotions felt my all people, especially the sad ones. Your poet also discusses events that have happened in her past (overcoming sexism etc.) and Berryman often talks about, or references his past (such as the death of his father, or the struggles throughout his life).

    On the other hand, Berryman presents this theme very differently than Angelou. Your poet presents this theme very directly, and it is even spoken in the first person. Berryman, however, tells his emotions through another character Henry, and almost never clearly says what the emotion is in the poem. His poems often do not flow as well as Angelou’s poems do, and many of his phrases are extremely ambiguous and often very confusing, however, the overarching ideas and themes presented in both of our poet’s poems are very similar.


  1. Comments on Blogs Continued… | A Scholar, Professor and a Poet.

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Say your words