Africa by Maya Angelou – Analysis

Thus she had lain

sugar cane sweet

deserts her hair

golden her feet

mountains her breasts            5

two Niles her tears.

Thus she has lain

Black through the years.

Over the white seas

Rime white and cold             10

Brigands ungentled

icicle bold

took her daughters

Sold her strong sons

churched her with Jesus        15

bled her with guns

Thus she has lain.

Now she is rising

remember her pain

remember he losses              20

her screams loud and vain

remember her riches

her history slain

now she is striding

although she had lain           25

[Explication]

Maya Angelou, an African American poet, wrote the poem “Africa” about the tragic events held by the European men who invaded Africa. Angelou uses rhyming techniques as well as imagery and metaphors to describe the actions made in African history. With those techniques she helps us with an image of what it was like to live in Africa during this time period.

The poem is separated into three stanzas and twenty-five lines. Each stanza contains vivid words to give a certain image in your head.  Angelou uses metaphors to compare the continent, Africa, to a healthy woman. This comparison between continents and women are used a lot to describe the state or well being of it. Each stanza shows slight variations to show the transitions of tone. Within those twenty-five lines, Angelou uses the rhyme scheme ABCB. The rhyming of this poem helps with how it is structured.

In the first stanza, the woman is being brought into character. She is being described as different landmarks in Africa with the use of metaphors. Angelou uses landmarks such as mountains (5), deserts (3), and the Nile River (6) to give the woman vivid description of her physical appearance. “Two Niles her tears (6)” in this line she is comparing the way her tears flow to the way the Nile River flows. The use of imagery is used throughout this stanza.

The first four lines in the second stanza, Angelou uses “rime” (10) and “cold” (10) to give us a brief description of the setting when the “brigands” (11) came to Africa ready to take away from the land. The next four lines are the about the actions the “brigands” (11) done to the women in Africa. Lines 14 and 15 state, “took her young daughters / sold her strong sons” to give us off the idea of slavery. This transition of tone gives the unpleasant and unwanted aspect of this part in the poem. At the end of this stanza, line 17 just like the first stanza, line 7 “Thus she has lain” which shows the uncomfortable effect to what the white men did to her.

In the last stanza, she talks about her overcoming the obstacles. Even though all the harshness she has been through, “now she is striding”. This stanza is in present tense unlike the other stanzas. This shows her progress from the pain she has endured. The tone in this stanza is more of accepting the fact and embracing what the white men did. In lines 19 and 20, she uses the word remember twice so that we remember what happened to her. The ending of this stanza states the same line, “although she has lain” in reference to her overcoming all the bad that she encountered. This line also helps us see that she is moving forward from everything that has happened.

In conclusion, African American poet, Maya Angelou, uses descriptive detail and convincing evidence to convey her thoughts about the country of Africa. Within this poem holds three stanzas which contain the explanation of the various usage of color imagery, metaphors, and other forms of literary elements. As we begin to journey into the poem with the first stanza, this is where Mrs. Angelou compares the likeness of a woman to the geological structures of the country itself. As in the second stanza the writer provides bits of imagery while explaining how the land was taken over as well as the actions taken upon women during this time. Finally, she comes to conclusion in the last stanza to show all the country has fought for and being able to overcome the obstacles set on their paths.

 

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