Is the title "Still I Rise" a metaphor? If so, what does it mean?

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The title of this poem is, indeed, a metaphor. We do use the phrase "to rise" in a metaphorical context very readily in English, to the extent that we can forget it is not meant literally—we might say that someone has experienced a "meteoric rise" at work, for example, meaning that they have been swiftly promoted. We also very often hear the phrase "to rise above," often meaning to ignore anything that has been said to denigrate us and to simply persevere, which is, to a great extent, the way in which Angelou means the term here. But a commonly-used metaphor is still a metaphor. As Angelou is not saying that she will rise literally and physically, we can infer that she is describing a metaphorical rise above those who would "trod me in the very dirt."

In the poem, Angelou compares her own manner of rising to that of "dirt" and "air" but also "hopes springing high." The poet describes herself as "the dream and the hope of the slave." As such, in rising—and the poem repeats the phrases "I'll rise" and "I rise" multiple times, emphasizing how central they are to its message—the poet represents the persistence and strength of her people in rising above what has been done to them.

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Consider first the most basic definition of metaphor: language or description that presents a comparison, not meant to be taken literally.  Is Maya Angelou talking about physically rising ("like dust," or "like air")?  The simple answer is no.  Therefore, you can conclude that the title is definitely a metaphor.

The meaning of this metaphor lies not only in the poem itself, but in the attitude and message of most of Angelou's poetry.  She writes of oppression, not just of herself, but of African Americans, and sometimes women, as a whole.  This poem addresses its audience directly as "you," and it is clear the audience is supposed to be the oppressors.

First, the speaker lists many different forms of physical and emotional oppression:

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt

But at the end of each stanza (and repeated several times at the end of the poem) the words "I'll rise" serve as both a victory cry as well as a chant of encouragement to others.  This metaphor is a reminder to emotionally rise above oppression and humiliation.  It is a reminder to rise above the oppressors in maturity and take the high road.  It is also a proclamation of the many who have succeeded in doing exactly this, and a battle cry to continue as long as the oppression continues.

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