Still I Rise Characters

The main characters in “Still I Rise” are the speaker and the speaker’s oppressors.

  • The speaker is a confident Black woman who asserts that no matter what her oppressors do, she will continue to live her life happily and with no regard for them. Even if they dismiss her in the history books, she knows her own strength and worth.
  • The speaker’s oppressors are those who attempt to diminish her confidence and worth, represented by white society at large. She does not wish them harm, instead emphasizing that their attempts to hurt her and keep her down will be unsuccessful.


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Speaker

The main character in this poem is the speaker herself. She is a Black woman whose fierce sense of confidence may intimidate or even anger other people, especially anyone who does not see her as valuable and worthy of high self-esteem. She speaks to her audience, addressing them directly and boldly. No matter what white people decide to record about her in history books, the speaker knows that she will not be defined by lies. She says that she walks as though she has oil wells in her living room; she walks like a woman who feels wealthy because of her own assurance and strength.

She compares herself to the moon, the sun, and the tides because, like these aspects of nature, she cannot be degraded by cruelty: the speaker is independent of this oppression and, like the sun, untouchable. Some may want to see her “broken” and weak, but she says that regardless of this, she is still able to laugh as though her backyard is filled with gold mines. She knows her worth, even if her audience does not.

Even if her oppressors “kill” her with “hatefulness,” the speaker insists that she will persevere. Despite the painful past that she and other Black people were forced to endure, she claims to be a “black ocean,” which can be likened to something mysterious and vast. The speaker will leave behind the terrors of the past of Black people and carry the “dream and hope of the slave,” rising so high above oppression that no one will be able to harm her.

The Speaker’s Oppressors

The “you” the speaker addresses can be interpreted as the white people who are trying to belittle her. These people actively want to oppress the speaker, and she is fully aware that they “want to see [her] broken.” The speaker directly addresses these people who shower her with hatred and violence; they are “beset with gloom” when they see her living a happy and successful life.

Notably, the speaker doesn’t give any indication that she wishes these oppressors ill—she merely insists that they can’t hurt her. These oppressors write the history books, are upset by her “sassiness” and her “haughtiness,” devalue her, and would rather see her broken than proud. While her oppressors do not want the speaker to realize her full potential, the speaker insists that it is already too late.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access