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In Maya Angelou's poem "Africa," she compares Africa's pain and struggles to a woman being brutalized. Why does she do this? Is it to draw sympathy to Africa? And why doesn't she say outright that Africa is struggling? Why use a metaphor?
|American Literature||All American Literature|
|Author||Angelou - Maya Angelou|
Throughout the poem, Angelou compares Africa and its struggles... to a woman being brutalized.
But if she has so much to say about this continent that clearly affects her so deeply...
...why mask it? Why not just tell it like it is, rather than discussing her ancestors'
homeland via metaphor? Did she think her readers would be able to
relate more easily this way?
There's an entire ocean between us and Africa...
...so it might be tough for an unfamiliar reader to imagine the oppression and tragedy
it has suffered.
But comparing it to the plight of a woman who is being ravaged or injured...
...well, that paints a more vivid picture.
A picture we see on the news pretty much every evening...
...and one we may even be able to imagine happening to us.
By drawing that parallel, Angelou causes us to feel sympathy for Africa.
But what if this wasn't Angelou's purpose in turning Africa human?
Maybe instead she wanted to communicate the idea that the land itself was alive...
...that it wasn't just a mass of dirt and trees, but that it had a heart of its own...
...pumping life throughout its many regions. Otherwise, she's only musing about an inanimate
...and who cares about inanimate objects?
Except for our car. Man, we love that thing. Or is she saying that Africa is the people?
While she initially starts by comparing some physical landmarks to human anatomy...
... the later stanzas seem to refer to the people who live on the land, rather than the
Her "young daughters" and "strong sons"...
..."bled her with guns"...
..."now she is striding"...
It sure seems like she's more preoccupied with the continent's inhabitants, and not
so much where they happen to hang their hats... So why the metaphor?
Was Angelou trying to make her poem more relatable to people, since it would be mostly... people...
Was she saying that Africa is every bit as alive as its residents?
Or that its people are Africa?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.