In her poem, “Still I Rise,” Maya Angelou uses a number of types of figurative language to the stress the strength and determination to overcome oppression.
She employs the use of repetitive phrases; “But still, like dust, I’ll rise” or “I rise.” She is emphasizing that, although historically African-Americans have been oppressed, she will aspire to greatness and endure.
The rhetorical question is another tool that she uses as she asks, “Did you want to see me broken? or “Does my haughtiness offend you?” She asks the audience questions that are thought provoking. They set the tone for the poem by creating inner conflict in the reader.
The are numerous examples of simile throughout the poem that create imagery. She implores the reader to consider why they feel sadness, “’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells pumping in my living room.” Her similes create visual imagery over and over again. In the following stanza you find simile and the use of rhyming words to create rhythm and imagery in the poem.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Another form of figurative language used in the poem is metaphor. Angelou writes,
I’m a black ocean leaping and wide,
Welling swelling I bear the tide.
She is carrying the history of oppression of her slave ancestors, and she will will not only endure but she will prosper through her pride.