The speaker’s attitude is complex, and sometimes contradictory, as she takes the reader through her imagined conversation with the listener, until finally thanking her “ancestors” for their “gifts,” and acknowledging their past as slaves. Each reader will have a different understanding of the overall attitude as well as how it changes through the poem.
Writing in second person, the speaker addresses an unnamed listener. Maya Angelou may have intended for the listeners to be a specific individual, a small group, a sector of society, or even the whole world. What seems to matter most is that this listener has been her antagonist and oppressor. One interesting aspect of her diction choice is that she suggests the possibility of their actions and attitudes rather than categorically stating them as fact: “You may write me down…”; “You may trod me in the dirt….”
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