Literary Analysis Essay of Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’
‘Phenomenal Woman’ is a poem written by the famous African American woman Maya Angelou. This piece is part of the And Still I rise book by the author and published in 1978. The poem is written in free verse and follows no specific rhyme scheme. The central point of this literary piece examines the persona’s perspective of a phenomenal woman. It gives readers the impression of what this woman is and the corresponding attributes that define this person. By carefully providing emphasis on these features, Angelou is able to emphasize both the individual and social relevance of how women should be represented.
Looking closely, one of the themes that can be gained from reading this poem corresponds to the empowerment of women. For the speaker, a ‘phenomenal woman’ is someone who is not necessarily beautiful or possesses the figure of a model. Rather, it comes from having the mindset and attitude that believes in her capabilities (Rose 1). She does not necessarily conform to norms and standards but rather builds character according to what she feels is right. Seeing this, Angelou advances this perception by showcasing in the poem a character that goes beyond what society think is physically beautiful. Instead, she constructs a woman who has a strong personality and the right attitude in recognizing her role and position in society.
Another important message conveyed by Angelou in the poem reflects the notion of how beauty should be manifested by every woman. Arguably, the poem criticizes the ideal that it takes other people to determine whether or not people are beautiful. Rather than trying to imitate what people see, it is important that this realization begins with the women themselves. Here, Angelou mentions that a woman’s concept of beauty must begin with her mind, believing that she is indeed beautiful regardless of what physical attributes she possesses (Angelou 1). Instead of depending on what other people had to say, a ‘phenomenal woman’ recognizes that she can work with her attitude and from there be unique from everyone else.
Equally, Angelou’s poem is arguably effective because of it effective use of literary technique. Such approach creates a deeper meaning to the piece and enables readers to connect with numerous messages. For instance, the use of imagery in the poem can be seen especially in describing what the speaker believes is a phenomenal woman. By using imagery, Angelou is able to create the woman she believes is confident and has the right attitude to become successful (UNCP.edu). Similarly, repetition and line length are also significant in highlighting the strengths of the speaker in the poem. For instance, repetition is used as a form of emphasis and enables readers to look into certain phrases that would elicit impact while line length also allow certain lines of the poem to stand out compared to others because of its shortness (UNCP.edu 1). In addition, the poem shows a lyrical approach with an effort to induce specific emotional responses to readers.
Overall, Maya Angelou’s ‘Phenomenal Woman’ is considered one of his most notable poems because of its ability to bring forward an empowered woman. It seeks to define a woman not based on her physical beauty or social stature but rather someone who possesses the attitude and determination to be someone who she wants to be. She also recognized the necessity of not necessarily conforming to expectations but rather creating opportunities for others to accept who she really is within. By bringing these features together, Angelou is able to create a meaningful piece that touches the hearts of numerous women and transcends through different generations.
Angelou, Maya. ‘Phenomenal Woman’ Poetry Foundation. n.d. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.
Rose, Rina. ‘Poetry Analysis Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou’ Humanities 360. 14 October 2011. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.
UNCP.edu.Maya Angelou. 2010. Web. Accessed 4 September 2014.