Explain if the main theme of "Still I Rise" could be considered a universal theme.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the theme of strength is a universal one from Angelou's "Still I Rise."

The poem is written from an African- American woman's point of view.  This is enhanced with  direct references to "sexiness, "sassiness," "diamonds at the meeting of my thighs."  However, the poem's thematic power lies in its applicability.  Angelou's poem is forceful in how it depicts individuals who commit themselves to persevering and triumphing over an adversary that wishes to remove their voice. This can be seen in the closing of the first stanza.  Anyone who has been marginalized and commits themselves to be heard could utter the lines "You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I’ll rise."  This is where the poem's resilient theme is a universal one.

The refrain of "I rise" is applicable to oppressive situations.  Angelou is speaking about the internal power an individual possesses.  Her poem could be recited by a person in a domestically abusive relationship, vowing to escape.  A political dissident could speak such words against the authoritarian structure that seeks to silence them.  An adolescent who is being bullied could also voice such sentiments.  Angelou's poem is universal because it speaks for the underrepresented and the dispossessed, giving them a voice where it might have been once absent.