Each of the questions in "Still I Rise" alludes to a quality that an oppressed people are supposed not to have or are told they must not possess: "sassiness," "haughtiness," "sexiness," and the ability not to be "broken." The effect is cumulative, but the outrage felt by the speaker is a steady, constant thing, resisting the onslaught represented by each question with replies that invalidate the assumptions inherent in them.
The impact of the questions is not derived from the questions themselves but from the nature of those replies. In each case, the speaker refuses to accept the role of victim that society imposes upon her.
The questions indicate that although the ones in power have made these assumptions about the speaker, it's they who, despite their power, are the dissatisfied, unhappy ones:
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
The implication is that when those in power try to deprive others of happiness, it's from a desire to compensate for their own...
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