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Expressive Woman And Still I Rise Poem English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1531 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Women: who are we? And what do we represent? For many years women have had to decide on our changing image that we want to portray. In the past women have been categorized as housewife, arm candy, maid, and even slave. Maya Angelou a well know writer, poet, actress and more can have her works easily read as racial indifference, but with versatile embedded meanings Maya speaks to me for woman empowerment. Still I rise, Woman work, and Phenomenal woman by Maya Angelou are three strong pieces that uncover the hardships of women and overcoming them.

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In Still I rise the opening of the poem is “You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies” in the Bible Eve gave Adam the apple that made them have the realization and knowledge of shame, with this came consequences that bridge to present day. An example of this would be God saying that child birth would be painful for Eve and her daughters. This shows that from the beginning of time women were blamed. Maya speaks of degradation of women “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” The way I see this is by replacing the word “You” with “Men”. Men have acted this way toward women in the past as they still do today. When reading the first three lines of the stanza it is easily read with constant flow, and the last line is to be spoken slowly and calm with pauses between because Maya especially wants to emphasize the fact that woman will rise. With conviction in the narration Maya writes “Just like moons and like suns” which are ongoing unchanging events. Reaction of the ongoing events are explained in the next line “With certainty of tides” which is the gravitational pull depending on the moon. She finishes with “Just like hope springing high, Still I rise” when I read this I translate it if there is hope to be had, there is still hope.

Characterization cues in the poem lead me to think that the speaker is a woman. The voice of this poem is a strong woman who demands attention, when she says “I rise” she is saying look at me and what I’ve done. When the woman talks of herself she explains her persona as “my sassiness” and “my sexiness”. Another area that points me in the direction of a woman speaker is when Maya writes “That I dance like I’ve got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs” Diamonds play a significant role being they are given to women to woo them, as well as, engagements gifts for marriage. Following the next line speaks of a body part hardly shown by men at all the thigh. Three quarters through her poem the narrator reaches the climax almost accusing out loud passion in each word “Out of the huts of history’s shame”, “I rise” being her argument. More of the past is revealed in her last lines of the poem and broken with the incessant “I rise”. Her last few lines reveal the truth and hope she previously spoke of “In to daybreak that’s wondrously clear” the speaker is saying now all she can see is opportunity and she is out of the storm. “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” And through the narrator I can envision a woman a strong woman who lived and never gave up. With Maya’s last lines being “I rise” “I rise” I can now translate this to I am free, I prevailed, I will survive.

Woman work, the title alone can be a discriminating statement. The first stanza of Woman work is an ongoing to-do list as if explaining to another her day. The narrator of this poem speaks the list as her non-stop life. In this poem there are no instances of outside help. The poems tone is set in struggle. When reading, the feelings I convey are of a single mother having to deal with the stresses of everyday life. The constant work at hand that must be done is stated “the children to tend”, “the chicken to fry”, “clean up this hut”, “And the cotton to pick”. Putting it plainly everyone who hopes to support there families do these daily task we care for our children, put food in our mouths, have a shelter to live in, and work. Bare necessities as these may be, doing it alone can be exhausting. The next stanza is “Shine on me, sunshine Rain on me, rain Fall softly, dewdrops And cool my brow again” in other words rain or shine the single mother will have to work. In the last line of the stanza she is saying when all is done she’ll be able to rest. The following line explains her in her resting state, her mind at ease, not weighed down by realities; the single mother is light and floating “Let me float across the sky ‘Til I can rest again.”.

The narrator then goes in to “Fall gently, snowflakes Cover me with white Cold icy kisses and Let me rest tonight” when Maya writes of the snowflakes falling she is speaking of the single mothers life the moment that she is living without the hustle and bustle. Things in the single mother’s life are now quite slow, which lead me to the assumption that the children are grown and her daily task are few. This being her final rest: death. In death people are said to be cold because their heart stops, but the color white symbolize graciousness. The single mother is at peace because she had done everything in her capacity. Her last few lines explain the single mother’s idea of heaven “Sun, rain, curving sky Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone Star shine, moon glow You’re all that I can call my own” in the poem her duties through the weather didn’t ever allow her to take a moment and enjoy natures splendors.

Phenomenal Woman reviews the expectations of society and the realities of womanhood. Maya first writes “Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.” opening the poem with this line one can expect to find the answer. The narrator compares her size to one of a fashion model their bodies differing. Then the narrator goes on to say “But when I start to tell them, They think I’m telling lies” in this case they being women who’s bodies aspire or already look like fashion models. The secret is not clear yet but one can gather that the secret doesn’t have to do with looking like a fashion model. Explanations are given in her next four lines “It’s in the reach of my arms The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips.” The body parts are significant to her womanly figure but the meaning rides deeper than that of appearance. The last lines of the stanza “I’m a woman Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.” now this statement is bold and full of confidence.

In the next stanza is created with ascending accents to build up the reader. Now the narrator talks of men “And to the man, The fellows stand or Fall down on their knees. Then they swarm around me, A hive of honey bees.” she explains the impact she has on them. Her presence is not ignore, she is respected. The narrator continues her explanation with “It’s in the fire in my eyes, And the flash of my teeth, The swing in my waist, And the joy in my feet.” Now two parts of her body are given characteristics of a person. Fire and Joy two traits of the woman’s personality are revealed through her body. The narrator speaks more of men and their ways of their wonder; the woman has an “inner mystery” but when she explains no one understands.

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The voice of the narrator is a confident, fun, and mysterious woman. In her last stanza she writes “Now you understand Just why my head’s not bowed. I don’t shout or jump about Or have to talk real loud. When you see me passing It ought to make you proud.” Saying this, the poem’s interpretation is understood that a woman who carries herself with dignity is a phenomenal woman.

The three poems share the theme of strong women. Other similarities I spot are the characterizations of personality in inanimate objects. Symbols are also used to depict the narrators view on events, I find this increasingly through all three of the works especially when triumphing over negative influences. For all three the voice really sets to mood of the poem the narrator is so captured details are easily understood. The differences include the tone the tones change to fit each situation. Another contrast is the stories, in one overcoming is still and forever in process, in Women Work she has just beaten the odds, and in the last poem it is an outcome of prevailing.

In Conclusion the three works Still I rise, Woman work, and Phenomenal woman are inspirational pieces that show that anything can be achieved. From different walks of life the three women in the poems were strong and persistent in bettering themselves. With this know we can live with the motto: Anything is possible.


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