Theme and Tone in "Still I Rise"

Essay by shootmyballCollege, UndergraduateA+, February 2006

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The themes in both, "Still I Rise" and "Sympathy", are very apparent. With such expressful words and phrases, both authors convey the true meaning and theme of each poem. In "Still I Rise", the reader sees the theme as self-respect. With phrases such as "You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes... but still, like air, I'll rise" (Lines 25,26, and 28), the reader sees that Angelou is explaining how someone could possibly put her down, and somehow she will overcome it with self-esteem. In "Sympathy", the reader sees that the theme is all about discovering how a "caged bird" feels. The author exemplifies this by repeating the phrase "I know why the caged bird sings!" (Lines 1,7,8,14,15, and 21). Then, he goes into detail and explains how he has made that discovery. "It is not a carol of joy or glee, but a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core" (Lines 18 and 19).

"Till its blood is red on the cruel bars; for he must fly back to his perch and cling" (Lines 9 and 10). Dunbar explains why the caged bird is still singing while it is being put through so much pain. Such expressful words can truly convey what the thesis and main idea are in each poem.

Both "Still I Rise" and "Sympathy" have different tones, but are expressed in the same way. Each of these tones are expressed in a form of imagery. In "Sympathy", Dunbar writes... " Till its blood is red on the cruel bars..." (Line 9). The reader can get a sense that the tone is sympathetic because the author gives an example of sympathetic imagery, which conveys the author's tone. "And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars and they pulse again with a keener sting..." (Lines 12 and 13). This quote displays imagery, which also gives the reader a sense of the author's sympathetic tone. Although expressed in the same way, both tones of each poem are very different. "Sympathy" has a sympathetic tone, while Still I Rise has a very defiant tone. Angelou displays this by giving such phrases as "Does my sassiness upset you?" (Line 5), and "Does my haughtiness offend you?" (Line 17). Both of these phrases express that Angelou has a sense of self-respect and defiance. Angelou also uses the term "Still I'll rise" (Lines 4, 12, 24, 30, 32, 36, 38, 41, 42, and 43) in the majority of her poem. Without using the words "might, possibly, or may", this means that she is defiant that she will overcome and rise above.