39 pages 1 hour read

Still I Rise

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1977

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: "Still I Rise"

Angelou’s speaker is likely a version of the poet herself as the speaker’s tone and content reflect ideas and emotions that have proven important to Angelou over her life and career. The speaker begins the poem by addressing an unspecified “you” (Line 1), and many readers assume this “you” to be a white person. By opening the poem with a reference to “history” (Line 1), the speaker both acknowledges historical oppression and personal trauma while dismissing the possibility that this history will forever be a limitation. By addressing the irony of their oppressor’s actions, the speaker claims to be more than the product of this history. Attempts to keep the speaker down in “the very dirt” (Line 3) actually give the speaker the ability to survive and overcome.

The speaker begins to unpack the “bitter, twisted lies” (Line 2) of their oppressor in the next stanzas of the poem. The tone of the poem becomes a paradoxical mix of anger and confidence as they reframe the white male perspective of the speaker to reflect their own confident pride in their own Black identity. The speaker prods their target with loaded rhetorical questions.

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