What is the imagery in "Still I Rise"?

The imagery in "Still I Rise" is, for the most part, visual in nature, as it describes things that we might see or could imagine seeing: things like oil wells, sad and slumped-over people, dark oceans, or bright sunrises.

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The imagery in "Still I Rise" is largely visual. This means that it describes how things look or objects that we might take in with our sense of sight (rather than our any of our other senses). In the second stanza, the speaker claims, "I walk like I've got oil wells / Pumping in my living room." This is figurative, of course, as she does not actually have oil wells in her living room, but the imagery is quite clear and allows us to conjure up an almost amusing mental picture of such a scene in our heads.

In the fourth stanza, she asks her audience if they want to "see [her] broken" with "Bowed head and lowered eyes," and this creates another visual image of a person whose slumped body language conveys their sadness and suffering. We can see them in our mind's eye as a result of this vivid description.

In the seventh and penultimate stanza, the speaker compares herself to a "black ocean, leaping and wide," and this is also a vivid visual image. We can certainly imagine how a huge black-hued ocean that fills the horizon, with waves that seem to leap up powerfully from its surface, would look. Finally, in the last stanza, the narrator says that she is rising "Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear," and this is yet another visual image of a cloudless sunrise after a pitch-dark night.

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What are the metaphors in "Still I Rise"?

In the sixth stanza of "Still I Rise," the speaker continues to address the same audience she has addressed in the first five stanzas—white people who oppress Black people—using a series of metaphors. A metaphor is a comparison of two unalike things where one thing is said to be another.

For example, she says, "You may shoot me with your words," comparing the hateful words of her would-be attackers to damaging bullets shot from guns. She also says, "You may cut me with your eyes," comparing the looks given by these attackers to blades, and "You may kill me with your hatefulness," comparing their hate to some weapon that could physically kill her. Each of these three comparisons is a separate metaphor.

Later in the poem, the speaker uses another metaphor, saying, "I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide." This metaphor emphasizes her power and her vastness, suggesting that it is in her very nature to rise like the tide and that she is as unstoppable as the tide.

She also compares American history, with its past of chattel slavery, to "nights of terror and fear" and the future to a "daybreak that's wondrously clear"—two more metaphors. The speaker believes that she is precisely what that enslaved person, hundreds of years ago, dreamed and hoped for: a free Black woman with confidence and power.

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