Africa: a reading response

Africa is a beautiful poem by Maya Angelou. This is my reading response after reading it. I got 50/50 points. First 100% paper. All the others were 48/50. Rad!

Maya Angelou uses personification and metaphors to create an image of a country under siege in her poem “Africa”. Imagine a beautiful woman lying vulnerable to the ravages of man. She lies there, as a mother, nurturing her children with her tears and laying riches at her feet for them to take. But others want her riches, her gifts. Others want to take of her bosom and pillage her people. They take them away, leaving her sad and aching for her lost children.

“Thus she has lain” is repeated throughout the poem to emphasize her vulnerability. She is not moving because she cannot move. She’s a continent after all. But eventually she moves through the empowering of her people. They move. She has nurtured them and encouraged them through the famine, war and pestilence that their country has gone through. They are stronger because of her support.

The poem transitions into movement in the first line of the last stanza “Now she is rising”. And emphasizes this by saying in the last line, “although she had lain.” This stanza is a call to remembrance of her rich history, of the pain she suffered and the cries of her children. And because she hasn’t forgotten all the suffering, she rises up and empowers her people. She calls them to take action, to take charge, to remember. Never forget or else it will happen again, she implies.

In the second stanza, she uses the rhythm of the words to emphasize the attack and torment of her people. The rhythm quickens here as you read the words aloud. I’m not sure how to describe the rhythm, it’s almost a waltz, with rules and emphasis on movement. Which reminds me of an army overcoming an enemy. Each movement precise and calculating. Each movement in response to the enemy. The whole poem reads in this waltz style rhythm, but the second stanza in particular is where the rhythm quickens. I believe it’s to create urgency and call attention to the woes of mother Africa. The quickstep of this stanza further emphasizes her vulnerability. It happened so fast, what could she have done? Thus she has lain.

The assault emphasized in the second stanza is foreshadowed in the first stanza by calling the country “black”. This is a strong use of metaphor to emphasize a challenging era. It assumes that it has been in darkness for a long time, “through the years”. That the pains and woes of the country are so bleak that no light can be sought. All at the hands of northerners from white seas and icy waters. A stark contrast to the warmth of the deserts and sugar cane. This contrast is also emphasized by the use of the colors black and white. Though, I feel the white created the black.

“Now she is striding” shows hope. She’s up, she’s no longer lying there in the darkness. She’s taking charge and taking back the beauty she once had. But not before they remember, remember where she’s been, remember the darkness so it doesn’t happen again. She is no longer vulnerable. And because her people remember, it won’t happen again.

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