Analyze how literary devices from "Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou contribute to the depth of the poem.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Simile:  Angelou incorporates similes like "but still, like dust, I'll rise" throughout the poem.  This particular simile also creates imagery, helping the reader to picture the rising cloud of dust in his or her mind.  Angelou's use of simile deepens the meaning of the poem by giving the reader a tangible connection, like dust, to connect with the deeper themes of the poem.

Metaphor:  Angelou uses metaphor as the speaker compares herself to a "black ocean, leaping and wide;" this metaphor reinforces the vast power felt by the speaker of the poem, that she feels unrestrained like the ocean, capable of overcoming her difficulties.

Imagery: Angelou employs strong imagery throughout the poem as she creates a contrast between past and present:

"Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries." (13-16)

In this stanza, Angelou appeals to the readers' sensory perception, particularly of sight, by creating a silhouette of defeat; the slumped posture and downcast eyes suggest failure and disappointment.  Moreover, the "soulful cries" deepen this image by adding an auditory layer, so the reader not only sees what defeat must feel like, but can hear it as well.

Personification:  "Past rooted in pain" gives human qualities, in this case emotion, to a non-human object or idea "the past." By doing so, Angelou again contrasts the difficult past with its hardships, restrictions, and disappointments to the bright promise of the future.  Angelou also uses alliteration here, "Past rooted in pain" and in "huts of history," which adds to the cadence of the poem.

All of these literary devices together contribute to the depth of the poem by demonstrating the extent of the speaker's power to overcome obstacles and still rise.