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Africa

Africa

by Maya Angelou

The Natural Woman

Symbol Analysis

OK, we know you're singing that song from the Herbal Essences commercials in your head right now. You know, the one that starts "You make me feel like a natural woman"? Well, in lots of ways, that's precisely what this poem is trying to do for Africa. With all of that intense natural imagery, Africa becomes not just a landscape but a voluptuous woman. Angelou reclaims all of the nineteenth-century stereotypes about the dangerous desirability of black women, turning their desirability into a natural (and historical) phenomenon.

  • Line 2: Describing the woman as "sugarcane sweet" creates a potent image, one that also happens to reflect one of the natural resources of Africa.
  • Line 3: Anthropomorphizing the desert into a woman's hair makes this image into a continuing picture of a single woman.
  • Line: 5 Once again, anthropomorphism and strong imagery combine to make this line another bit of the woman-as-Africa.
  • Line: 6 The Nile as tears? That's a larger-than-life image which is quickly turning into a conceit (an extended metaphor comparing Africa to a beautiful woman).

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