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Portrayal Women's Issues in Poems 'Still I Rise' and 'Story of an Hour'

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The ‘Story of an Hour’ by Kate Chopin, takes place in the 19th century, where women had hardly any rights, no opportunities and were expected to be a stereotypical housewife. The story is based upon a married woman who has underlying heart conditions. The wife’s name is Mrs. Mallard, she was told that her husband had died, however after her grief had passed, she came to a sense of freedom and joy, this represents the theme that women are oppressed by their marriages, which was problematic. In the poem ‘Still I Rise’, Maya Angelou shares her experience of discrimination throughout her lifetime and represents the black community who have suffered the same fate as her. The poem is aimed towards oppressors and discriminators of society, and she justifies how mistreated and the cruelty her ancestors injured, but she will rise against the suffering they have experienced. However, it is mainly about how she is confused on why she goes through such horror caused by people, ostensibly white people.

In ‘Story of An Hour’, marriage is portrayed as a restraint for women, and was seen as a burden, due to the power being held by the husband, dictating what wives will and will not do. This shows her lack of freedom. When Mrs. Mallard first hears about her husband’s death, “she wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment”, the author contrasts how other women would be shocked and overwhelmed, they would be in “paralyzed inability”, this contrasts how most women are incapable of coping without their husbands, however Mrs. Mallard comprehends directly what has happened, this gives the sense that it is quite unnatural, making the reader suspect that her reaction is unusual, due to social prejudice of grieving, it also suggests that their marriage was flawed. The use of the complex sentence ‘great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news husband’s death’, mirrors the complexity of the story and her emotions.

Mrs Mallards ‘husband’s death’, makes the reader assume that she will be engulfed with sorrow, however, thee contrast of Mrs. Mallards realisation of her freedom and her newly found independence, later on in the story, illustrates that marriage held women back in the 19th century.

The quotation “that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have right to impose private will upon a fellow creature”, portrays her assumptions that marriage restricts women’s freedom within life, and therefore suggests that it is not beneficial or equal for relationships, this insinuates that marriage is one of the main reasons why women are so oppressed in society. Later on, in that paragraph the short sentence “brief moment of illumination”, shows the lack of emotion she had for their marriage, this indicates that their relationship, is a moment of enlightenment, due to her realising the sadness that her marriage caused her, indicating one of the main problems women suffered from in the 19th century.

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The symbolism used throughout ‘Story of an Hour’, portrays how boxed her freedom was before her husband died, the symbolic quotation “facing the open window”, symbolises her possibilities and shows Mrs. Mallards enlightenment of her power and independence, this emphasis the theme of lack of freedom, due to the unknown feeling of independence. The symbolism, “she could see in the open square before her house the tops of the trees were all aquiver with the new spring life”, contrasts the regulated term of her freedom being imprisoned, the phrase “new spring life”, contradicts her past by referencing her new life, which represents the new beginning that awaits her, this gives a sense of unfamiliarity to self-identity since she is only now awakening to a new life, this shows the absence of selfhood.

The theme of racism runs throughout the poem, ‘Still I Rise’. In the poem the author mentions race and references to ‘history’s shame’, the author uses this phrase to show the dehumanisation of slavery in the past to emphasis the message of racism, and to state how society viewed black life then, in this Maya is stating the problems society caused and that society should find remorse. The usage of the metaphor, “I’m a black ocean”, relates to the black race of the past and present, the noun “ocean” implies a vast majority of people who have suffered oppression throughout history, and also the victims of slavery in the past. Maya speaks on behalf of the people who had no voice, via the metaphor “I am the dream and the hope of the slave”, by referencing herself to embody the hopes and dreams of slave, she is implying that she wants to achieve what they could not, this makes the reader aware of the horrors of the past.

The similes in ‘Still I Rise’, symbolise wealthy objects, such as ‘diamonds’, ‘oil wells’ and ‘gold mines’, Maya compares herself to these, due to each object possessing wealth, power and great beauty. This gives a sense that women posses wealth of spirit and beauty instead of financial status, this emphasises the importance of women’s values nevertheless of what society’s views. However, Maya contrasts this with the usage of the written trochee in the first stanza, ‘bitter, twisted, lies’, this emphasis her anger through the use of the powerful emotive negative adjectives, which link to the idea of hatefulness. This shows how insulting society is and how women are unjustifiably discriminated, this emphasises Maya’s exasperation of even though women are powerful and beautiful like ‘diamonds’, females are still being shunned for how they act, or look.

The usage of personifications throughout ‘Still I Rise’, shows her determination to overcome oppression from society, she illustrates that people can ‘shoot me with your words, or ‘kill me with your hatefulness’, this portrays her will power and how it will not stop Maya from surviving the discrimination and abuse. Maya is also stating that people are still making her endure the hatred towards her. The personifications are also part of the triad due to the phrase of, “You may”, at the start of each line. The triad emphasis her aggression and hostility against the oppressors. The personal pronoun of “you”, implies that Maya is directly addressing the reader, making the phrases more personal, which gets the reader to feel unsettled due to the aggression portrayed through the phrases.

In ‘Still I Rise’, the structure throughout the poem helps support the main idea that Maya is trying to put across, that she will overcome discrimination and gain her fredom. In the poem, Maya repeats the phrase, “I rise”, multiple times and is used at the end of each stanza, this reminds the reader of her rising up and moving past the discrimination she has received in her lifetime. Up to stanza 7, Maya utilizes the phrase “I’ll rise”, whereas after the 7th stanza she employs the phrase, “I rise”, implying to the reader that she has moved on from wanting to rise, but is now rising above, this emphasis Maya’s bias past since if she hadn’t experienced “nights of terror and fear”, she would not need to rise.

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Portrayal Women’s Issues in Poems ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Story of an Hour’. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2023, from
“Portrayal Women’s Issues in Poems ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Story of an Hour’.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Portrayal Women’s Issues in Poems ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Story of an Hour’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 4 Dec. 2023].
Portrayal Women’s Issues in Poems ‘Still I Rise’ and ‘Story of an Hour’ [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Dec 4]. Available from:
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