Maya Angelou

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What is a summary of the poem "On Aging" by Maya Angelou?

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The speaker of the poem doesn't want sympathy for aging, as she is the same person she has always been, despite getting older. She will accept understanding from other people, knowing she has changed physically, but does not want their pity. Her life isn't over, and she doesn't want to be treated as if it is. 


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Maya Angelou's "On Aging" is a validation of living into older age that features a strong and independent tone of confidence.

The speaker opens the poem by addressing an unseen "you," likely a member of a younger generation who does not yet understand the process of aging. The speaker cautions this listener that, when she is seen sitting quietly, she is not looking for pointless chatter; one of the abilities she has gained through her years of experience is the ability to listen to herself. She prefers her own quiet thoughts over incessant and meaningless conversation.

She then uses two lines of exclamation:

Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!

The speaker combines these exclamations with the literary technique of anaphora (beginning successive lines using the same words) to strengthen her tone, noting that she is not in need of either pity or sympathy.

If the listener can offer some understanding through true life experience and wisdom, the speaker is pleased to accept that offering. However, she doesn't really need it and can do without it just as easily.

The next section of the poem dispels the stereotype that the elderly should be confined to a sedentary lifestyle, content to watch life pass them by from a "rocking chair." The speaker notes that her body may ache and may not cooperate as she would prefer, but she will not simply sit and become a passive observer of her life. Instead, she notes that she plans to keep "walking," even "stumbling," because she is...

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