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The poem “Still I Rise” portrays the speaker, who is presumed to be a black woman, standing up against discrimination with courage. The speaker refuses to be intimidated and keeps rising in victory in the face of all attempts by the oppressor to “shoot,” “cut,” or “kill” her. Angelou was a devoted advocate for civil rights, and “Still I Rise” can be seen as a striking protest against anti-black racism in the US.
About The Poet
Maya Angelou was an American was an author of memoirs, well-known poet, and civil rights advocate. She is known for writing plays, movies, and television productions that have spanned more than 50 years, as well as seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry.
Theme Of The Poem
After the American Civil Rights movement, Angelou penned “Still I Rise” in the preceding ten years. The goal of this movement was to bring about equality for black people and other persons of colour in the US. Both those who are excluded and those who are oppressing, exist in modern society, both of which are motivated by prejudice and discrimination. The speaker exposes that this culture has a tragic history of slavery.
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.
The poet boldly addresses those who have been attempting to belittle her in history, at the outset of the poem. The oppressors strive to change history’s terrible, twisted facts, but the poet is unshakable in her courage and believes that even if she is degraded to the status of dirt, she will rise above it like dust.
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.
Maya highlights the disbelief on oppressors’ faces as they get intimidated by their victims’ sassiness. The poet is making a mockery of them by making them depressed with her vibrancy. As is typical of Maya Angelou’s wit, it is said that despite her poverty, she walks with as much self-pride as if she had oil wells running in her living room.
Just like moons and like suns, With the certainty of tides, Just like hopes springing high, Still I'll rise.
The poet is adamant about her potential for success. The Sun and the Moon are constant, everlasting elements of the universe. Similarly, the poet has hopes. Like these unstoppable everlasting beings, she will continue to rise.
Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes? Shoulders falling down like teardrops, Weakened by my soulful cries?
The poet asks her enemies whether they like to see her shattered, her head down, and her eyes dropped. The victim’s falling shoulders are described by the poet as teardrops. The victims’ vulnerability is expressed in their heartfelt cries, but the narrator here refuses to succumb to it.
Does my haughtiness offend you? Don't you take it awful hard ’Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines Diggin’ in my own backyard.
The poet asks her enemies whether they like to see her shattered, her head down, and her eyes dropped. The victim’s falling shoulders are described by the poet as teardrops. The victims’ vulnerability is expressed in their heartfelt cries, but the narrator here refuses to succumb to it. Maya again wonders if her haughty actions anger her oppressors. She says, however, that she will not alter her behaviour. In a sassy manner, she gives another example of the wealth of the gold mines in her backyard.
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.
Her enemies’ attempts to ruin her are described by the poet. They try to cut her down by using harsh language and an expression that makes her feel insulted. She is unbeatable and rises like air, unstoppable by anyone, despite their hatred for her and their determination to kill her.
Does it come as a surprise That I dance like I've got diamonds At the meeting of my thighs?
Her oppressors are upset by her desirability since they don’t recognize any human qualities in her. She uses the metaphor of a diamond to illustrate her womanliness while pointing at the gem that is her body.
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.
The poet is said to have led a dishonourable life. These events are the filthy huts of history. She has a painful past. But she soars above it all. She equates herself to a huge, rippling, dark ocean. Her character is dynamic like water, swelling and welling into any shape. She endures everything in life, which is like the ocean.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise I rise I rise.
Maya made an effort to put an end to the terrifying and fearful nights that her people experienced. She asserts that she will still overcome everything. She appreciates the gift of her ancestry because she is proud of it. Despite being taken to the continent as slaves, her ancestors never gave up fighting. She continues to rise because she represents the slave’s dream and hope.