Rhetorical Analysis: Still I Rise by Maya Angelou 

“Does my sexiness upset you? Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?” (Angelou). Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise poem is filled with rhetorical devices that the speaker, Angelou’s speaker, uses to affect the reader.

Still I Rise’s rhetorical triangle will be analyzed to get a better understanding of the speaker’s purpose. Since this is a poem, instead of a speech, there is not a logos in the triangle but there is still a speaker, audience, and a message. The speaker is Maya Angelou’s speaker because Angelou never gives evidence of the speaker being someone else or herself. The audience is anyone that needs to be inspired or reassured that they will make it through whatever they are going through.

The message is that people can say, do and think what they want, but it won’t stop you from being who you are and rising above it all to be better. Ethos is called a speaker’s character or ethics. The speaker, Maya Angelou’s speaker, is confident and very sure in the phrases they use. Angelou’s speaker says, “You may trod me in the very dirt but still, like dust, I’ll rise.” (Angelou). By using lines like “`Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines diggin’ in my own backyard.” the speaker gives the reader a since of boldness (Angelou). Everything is said in first person, so the reader can place themselves in the position that Angelou’s speaker wants.

Another example is in the seventh stanza, “Does it come as a surprise that I dance like I’ve got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs?”, there’s repetition of various forms of first person (Angelou). These all show how Angelou’s speaker gives the reader a feeling that they are confident in their words. Pathos is the ability of a speaker to give the reader some type of emotion by using powerful words or phrases. Strong words put into phrases like this, “…with your bitter, twisted lies…” are just the beginning of the speaker’s ability to make the reader feel (Angelou). Words like bitter and twisted may make the reader feel disgusted or appalled towards the liar who is spoken of. Angelou’s speaker asks “Did you want to see me broken? Bowed head and lowered eyes?”, this makes the reader realize people want to see you beat down and struggling (Angelou).

Another noticeable rhetorical device is repeating a word or phrase. “I rise” is repeated multiple times throughout Angelou’s poem to bring more emphasis to the deeper meaning within these two words (Angelou). It shows the reader that they can be beat down, talked about and dragged through the mud, but they can still get back up and be even better than before.

The effect the poem has on the reader is based heavily on the loaded words and phrases that Angelou’s speaker uses. “…Still I’ll rise.” (Angelou) From the confident tone to the loaded words and repetition, Maya Angelou’s Still I’ll Rise poem is overflowed with rhetorical devices. They can be found throughout the poem in many forms, and they can be interpreted in different ways for different people.