Study Guide

Alone Speaker

By Maya Angelou

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The speaker in this poem is a funny sort of character. She starts out as your regular, run-of-the-mill insomniac, a person who lets all sorts of thoughts run through her head because she just can't seem to sleep.

By the end of the poem, however, the speaker's become something like our cultural conscience. She seems to know – and see – all of our suffering. And we do mean ALL of our suffering. This speaker seems to be blowing a warning horn. Things aren't getting any better. In fact, they seem to be getting worse. And as the crisis reaches its tipping point, our speaker's omniscience only seems to increase.

We've got to admit, though, this speaker plays a rather dirty trick on the reader: she promises us some sort of revelation, letting us know that she's about to reveal what she knows (line 22), and then she tells us…. nothing.

OK, it's not nothing. But she sure doesn't give us any tools to combat the alone-ness that seems to be creeping though the world like a plague. Nope. She just points out that people shouldn't be alone. Hmm, thanks. Thanks a lot. That's sort of like going to the doctor with a broken leg and being told that people shouldn't break bones. We might have grasped that the first time around. We're not saying that she doesn't have a valid point. We're just a little upset that there don't seem to be any clear solutions.

Then again, that's not our speaker's responsibility, is it? Aren't we the ones who are supposed to figure out our own problems? Well, yes. But we'd probably like the speaker a whole lot more if she could just help us out a little!

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