This study guide will help you analyze the poem “Still I Rise” (1978) by Maya Angelou. You can also find a summary of the poem, as well as ideas for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.
Excerpt from the study guide:
The poem includes several symbols which underscore the main themes and message. Firstly, the riches the speaker mentions, such as “oil” (l. 7), “gold” (l. 19), and “diamonds” (l. 27), symbolize her sense of self-worth. By comparing her value as a person with that of people possessing precious gems and materials, she shows that despite people trying to bring her down she knows that she is valuable and worthy of better treatment.
Similarly, the ocean in the eighth stanza is a symbol of the speaker’s strength and power. By comparing herself to a great and powerful ocean that influences the tides, the speaker shows that she believes her strength cannot be contained or diminished, no matter her oppressor’s efforts. Both of these symbols help to show that the speaker remains unaffected and resilient in the face of the oppression directed at her.