Analysis of the Symbolism in the Poems Fire & Ice, Still I Rise and Annabelle Lee
Imagine the power of words trapping you in a virtual reality where they would magically come to life. That is what poems have the power to do as I have learned through reading several in class. Nevertheless, the three poems which have had the greatest influence on me were “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost, “Annabelle Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe and “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.
“Fire and Ice” used symbolism to portray two ways that can bring destruction onto our world. The poem used fire to symbolize the capacity to be consumed by desire, and ice as the capacity to be consumed by hatred. The poem explains how both fire and ice can bring about destruction as the poet tells us that he holds with those who favour fire but knows enough about hate to realize that ice could also destroy our world.
The next poem I enjoyed was “Annabelle Lee”. “Annabelle Lee” was an eerie and creepy poem that starts out with two young people who had fallen in love “in a Kingdom by the sea”. Unfortunately, the narrator’s lover, Annabelle Lee, tragically died in the poem. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop the narrator from being with his beloved as he seems to be lying beside her in her tomb at the end of the poem still showing her immense affection and love.
Lastly, the final poem which had that greatest impact on me was “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. “Still I Rise” was a poem based on the life of American author Maya Angelou. Maya was a black female who lived in southern America in the mid-1900s. Due to the history of African American slaves as well as the constant racism at the time towards people of colour, Maya was scrutinized and treated terribly by society. However, unlike most people at the time who would just do nothing about it, Maya kept a positive attitude and learned to rise through all her troubles that she talks about in the poem.
Therefore, although I thoroughly enjoyed both “Fire and Ice” and “Annabelle Lee”, I would have to say my favorite poem which influenced me the most was indeed “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou because of how I was able to relate to it, the historical significance behind the poem and the excellent use of literary devices.
Firstly, the poem was relatable to me and reminded me of the dark past of my childhood. The author of this poem, Maya Angelou, was subject to racial injustice and bullying at an alarming level. My situation wasn’t as alarming but nevertheless, I was also subject to racial injustice and bullying at a young age. I felt a lot like what Maya expressed in this poem when I was growing up in my apartment in downtown Hamilton. Growing up in my old neighbourhood was tough because of the state of my community. It was extremely impoverished and a lot of the time cases of robbery, rape and even murder would come up. Nevertheless, what was similar to the way I lived and how Maya lived was that we both were considered abnormal in our societies.
Maya was an African American in southern America and I was one of the few brown men in our community. Therefore, as imagined I was hit with a lot of racism, especially by older students. However, after talking to my parents and one great teacher of mine, I learned to cope with it all like Maya did. As she expressed in her poem, “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll Rise (stanza 6).” I can totally relate to this quote because I too was verbally abused and look at differently by other students. I also felt an atmosphere of hatefulness whenever I was around older students at my school. However, due to the help of my loved ones as well as my never give up mentality, I learned to rise through it all like the air and just continue on with my life. This sort of feeling of being able to relate to a poem wasn’t present with the other two poems “Fire and Ice” and “Annabelle Lee”. “Fire and Ice” talked about destruction through desire and hatred and that is just a topic that hasn’t come across my mind at all throughout my life and I hope it doesn’t as well. On the other hand, “Annabelle Lee”, discussed losing your loved one and being so delusional to the point where you just can’t let them go.
To conclude, “Still I Rise” had the most influence on me and was the most enjoyable because it reminded me so much of my childhood and how I felt at that time. Secondly, the poem discussed a lot of ideas that were based off events in history that took place hundreds of years ago. It starts out with the African American slave dilemma which began as early as the 1600s when the first 19 or so Africans reached the English colonies in Jamestown, Virginia, only then to be captured and used as slaves by the Spanish.
Of course, America soon became an independent country in 1776 but that didn’t stop “white folks” in that country from abusing African Americans and using them as slaves for their factories, farms, etc. Maya Angelou recognized how her ancestors suffered so much but uses that as motivation to make sure that their efforts didn’t go to waste. Maya once said in an interview that, “Your ancestors took the lash, the branding iron, humiliations and oppression because one day they believed you would come along to flesh out the dream.” Maya has clearly not forgotten what her ancestors went through at the time and she used that to express to others that they should not forgot either. That is why Maya wrote in “Still I Rise” that, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise, I rise, I rise (stanza 9).”
Maya lets many black people who were living in the mid 1900s that they are the dreams of their ancestors and that their ancestors went through all that hardship, so they could have more opportunities and freedom. In addition, Maya says that she is “bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave”, and I feel that gift is their freedom from being used as slaves and tools for the rich. The way Maya ties her poem to the African American culture is stunning and that historical significance wasn’t present in the other two poems that I have mentioned.
In “Fire and Ice” the ideas are simple and have no cultural background to digest and take in as the poem simply discusses fire and ice and how they can lead to destruction. The same goes for “Annabelle Lee” which although has a much greater cultural background then “Fire and Ice” it still sticks with a somewhat simple topic of two people in love and then sadly one of them dies, leaving the other in despair and making them delusional. Therefore, because of the historical significance of the poem and how the author relates history to the issues she tackles, that is a reason as to why “Still I Rise” was my favorite poem and has impacted me the most.
Finally, “Still I Rise” had an excellent use of stylistic devices such as metaphors, repetition and imagery. This significantly enhanced the poem and made the issues the author was presenting feel very important to the reader. The first stylistic device I found was a metaphor. I noticed this when it said that, “I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide (line 33).”
Obviously, because Maya is black she calls herself a black ocean. However, this metaphor means more. I think the metaphor lets the reader know that like the ocean, she is a leaping and wide figure which can have an affect on the entire world, like an ocean, by talking about issues that African Americans face everyday. The next device which caught my eye was the use of repetition. The way she repeated, “Still I rise” was extremely important to the poem and made the poem unique. The reason for this being because it kept the reader interested as it doesn’t really feel like reading a list of issues, but instead reading about a black woman’s ability to rise through all the troubles thrown her way.
Finally, the last stylistic device that I noticed in the poem was imagery when it said, “Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room (line 7-8).” The use of imagery here lets the reader picture they way she walks in confidence, like she is an extremely rich woman with oil wells pumping in her living room. This helps the reader understand how confident she really is and how she isn’t fazed at all by the troubles she is receiving by the other people in her community because of her skin colour. This poem uses so many stylistic devices and each one enhances the poem in a big way. However, I didn’t feel the same way when reading the other two poems “Fire and Ice” and “Annabelle Lee.”
“Fire and Ice” mostly used symbolism and although that was great, I just feel the author could have used even more devices to enhance the poem and make it more interesting for the reader. On the other hand, “Annabelle Lee” uses repetition and alliteration but the repetition didn’t really have the same impact for me as in “Still I Rise” The repetition in Annabelle Lee is just repeatedly letting the reader know about “[Him] and [his] Annabelle Lee.” For me, that doesn’t have an impact because I really haven’t felt that way before and also, it didn’t motivate me or make me feel any empathy at all unlike with the repetition in “Still I Rise”.
To conclude, the excellent use of literary devices is another reason why I enjoyed “Still I Rise” the most and why it has also had the greatest impact on me.
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