“Africa” Explication

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Category: Literature

Date Submitted: 09/20/2012 01:57 PM

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Maya Angelou’s “Africa” (Angelou, 1975) details the beauty of the country of Africa, as well as the struggles and hardship of African women and men as they fought their way through enslavement, in the end rising up and rejoicing. The speaker’s details, along with the rhythmic wording of the stanza’s, simulate the fluid movement of an African dance, so clear that you find yourself “feeling” each syllable.

The phrase “she had lain” is repeated many times (anaphora) throughout the poem in lines 1, 7, 17 and 25, thus suggesting that Africa, as a country, has “lain” for quite some time, but now is rising above all of the turmoil that it has experienced in the past. In the first stanza, the form of the poem holds four syllables in each of the eight lines, but then it goes a little haywire from there. Stanza two brings us nine lines, but varies the syllables for each line, one line with four, one with five, and then an extra line thrown in at the end for good measure, only to add to the confusion. The third stanza is back to the eight lines, but the symbols don’t follow the flow of the poem, but that may be what the speaker wants, possibly creating the haphazard and unexpected way that Africans were thrown into slavery.

Imagery is quite prevalent in the first stanza, bringing life and connecting the reader with the country via visualization. The speaker brings the parts of the countryside to life with “Deserts her hair (3)/mountains her breasts” (5) and “two Niles her tears” (6). With this representation, it helps us, as human beings, to relate with the pain that African’s felt during slavery, when the population was forcefully taken from their native country. Line 8 reminds us of the color of the African people, ever “black through the years” (8), just in case someone were able to mindlessly forget.

The second stanza forcefully pushes and accentuates the struggles and hardships of the action of enslavement “brigands ungentled” (11), and the heartfelt pain...