In this poem, Maya Angelou celebrates femininity by playing upon the two possible meanings that could be attached to the poem's title - Phenomenal Woman. As a liberated woman, the speaker in the poem proudly proclaims her individuality; she is an extraordinary person, and therefore phenomenal. Phenomenal - from Angelou's Perspective:
Maya Angelou asks the reader to probe deeper into the whole question of what makes a woman attractive, worthwhile and valued. The "Phenomenal" in the ordinary sense of the term relates to all data that can be perceived by the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. However, Maya Angelou takes the reader into the specific and much higher qualities that are attributes of "Phenomenal" - they are: intangible qualities like a soul, a mind, and a temperament. Women have spent hours making over their appearances for centuries. But phenomenal woman, by her very naturalness, is more alive and more sensual than her doll-like sisters. Men, however, are bewildered by her power to attract because they have forgotten what a real woman is like. Phenomenal Woman is breezy in flaunting her mystery. Unlike conventional "mysteriousness" which men assign to woman, the Phenomenal Woman does not depend on glamour, coquetry, tantrums, or capriciousness to intrigue men. Her mystery is profound and real, especially since men and women do not understand her extraordinary, natural vitality. The Attitude of Men towards Phenomenal Woman:
Phenomenal woman has men behaving in ways pretty woman can only dream of - they mill around her like bees around a honeycomb. Men are bowled over by her charm. Her conquests are effortless. She is cool - a black English word to describe someone who is perfect, proud and in-charge of herself. Phenomenal woman's physical charm expresses a wholly different female temperament. The fire in her eyes is a marker of passion, the flash of her teeth is a symbol of primitive and even savage energy. The swing of her waist and the motions of her feet suggest the celebrating notes of a jungle dance. Characteristics of a Phenomenal Woman:
The last stanza addresses the world. Phenomenal woman remains unconquered. She is not "subject" to anyone. She does not need to be agitationist, attention-seeking, or polemical. Shouting, jumping and protesting loudly are entirely unnecessary for her. Phenomenal woman simply is. Phenomenal woman is in complete control of herself unlike insecure women who worry constantly about their appearance. Conclusion:
In conclusion, Angelou states that, above all, phenomenal woman is self-defining. The key-phrase upon which the entire poem revolves is the one which repeats itself in every stanza: "I say." Because she articulated herself, and does not allow others to define or describe her, she exists. Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman”, is a compelling form of art. Angelou tends to write about topics that are often disregarded and unexplored by others. Her poem illustrates the love a woman has for herself even though she isn’t considered beautiful. The language and tone indicate that the speaker was abused. Her pride has risen from the torture and neglect she experienced. Instead of being ashamed and blaming herself, she has gained hope. The scholarly essay by Kelly Holland Cecil analyzes the key concepts of the poem and notes Angelou’s inspiration and the general patterns that can be found throughout her poetry. Cecil notes the generalization of Angelou’s usage of personal experience and history, “Much of Angelou’s poetry, almost entirely short lyrics, expresses in strong, often jazzy rhythms, themes common to the life experiences of many American blacks – discrimination, exploitation, being on welfare. Other poems deal with social issues and problems which, though not unique to blacks, are explored from a black perspective.”
In my own analysis I discovered that Maya Angelou mostly writes from experience, and this poem falls perfectly in that...
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