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Compare and Contrast of Alice Walker and Maya Angelou

By morganroe Mar 12, 2014 1122 Words

Two well regarded and recognized poets, Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, wrote lots of different renowned poetry that is appreciated for its beauty and its truth. Both poets are African American woman, although in different times, many of their words rang true to one other. Their work can be compared and contrasted by understanding the poems, as two separate pieces of work, and then looking at how each are similar and different in their own respects.

Alice Walker grew up the youngest of eight children. She was in an accident as a child that left her blind in one eye. She is best known for her work The Color Purple. Much of her work is focused on Civil Rights for African Americans. In Alice Walker’s poem Remember? she begins by posing a question. Just by the title, the reader begins to believe that this poem is taking place in the past, it may cause the reader to think of another time where they have been asked the question, remember? To paraphrase, the poem begins rather dark, a hate for Walker’s physical appearance, which makes reference to her past time when her eye had been shot by a BB gun. She continues with detest towards her life and the way that she is living her life, "holding their babies / cooking their meals / sweeping their yards / washing their clothes." After these first two stanzas, the poem shifts into a powerful and defiant outlook. She no longer lets this hate for herself, or the hate that comes from the oppression against her skin color to affect her. She turns from looking at the bad times that have struck her life, as moments for possibility for the future.

Walker includes rhetorical question in the title, Remember? There is the use of repetition when she says, “I am the woman” and “I am the girl,” which shows both change and a sense of confidence in who she is. She also uses the metaphor "roots of the flower: justice and hope." As she states that "I am the woman / offering two flowers / whose roots are twin, " we understand that her view on the oppression and physical deformities are the roots of the justice, while the new and fixed woman is seen through the idea of hope. The organization is clear with the shift coming after the second stanza. The theme is justice and hope, whether it is for a better future for herself or for that of the African American people. She challenges the people to be better.

Maya Angelou’s writes poem, Phenomenal Woman, based off of experience. Growing up, an African American woman, she was often discriminated against. She never saw herself as someone who was beautiful, and as a child was sexually abused. Through these experiences, she writes Phenomenal Woman as praise to those who do view themselves in this respect. The title hints to the reader that they will be reading a poem about a phenomenal woman, whoever this might be. The poem is written describing the different factors that make this woman beautiful. The woman in this poem is not necessarily about her outside and how she looks, but much greater about who she is on the inside and how she carries herself. Men are drawn to this woman because of the way she carries herself, though she is in addition physically attractive, that is not what the poem is supposed to be central around. Angelou describes the emotion of a hidden frustration and anger at any who may begin to doubt the woman’s confidence. But overall Maya Angelou praises the woman who can learn to love herself.

Angelou uses great imagery throughout her work, especially in describing the characteristics of the woman in the poem. She also uses metaphor when she states, “Then they swarm around me/
A hive of honey bees.” Her use of repetition is seen in “I am woman, 
Phenomenal woman, 
That’s me.” Overall her words give a great description. The poem shifts when she begins talking about outsider’s opinions. Her tone throughout is both confident and proud. The title is self-confidence and introducing a movement for change. The theme is beauty is shown through self-confidence.

In both essays, each discusses the idea of confidence and a love for who you are. In Angelou’s, it is very loud and clear, that a woman is beautiful because of the way that she carries herself and everything she has. While Walker begins with a lack of confidence but builds up to appreciate herself for who she is and what she can do. In accordance, Walker has a central idea that inner beauty comes through mentality. Walker’s theme is justice. These two go hand in hand, because Angelou wants to change the modern image of American women, blond hair, blue eyes, and show is not the only kind of beauty. It is a justice for African American women to understand that they are beautiful. In Walker’s poem, it is apparent that hope and justice give her the chance to understand her own beauty and her own strength to build the kind of self-confidence that is seen in Phenomenal Woman.

The tone of both of the pieces varies. In Angelou’s version, the tone is consistently proud and confident and unwavering at the opinions of others, whether it is the jealous women or the men, the focus stays very consistent. In Walker’s version, the tone begins rather dark and gloomy, but changes drastically into a feeling of hope that good can be done, a belief in self. Both have a free-verse style with repetition.

The purpose of the two poems does differ. Overall, the purpose of Maya Angelou’s poem is demonstrating the beauty of an African American woman on how she carries herself. Walker’s purpose is much more of a challenge. She wants the reader to walk away, giving anyone the chance that is willing to stand against the injustices of society. She uses her own personal afflictions in order to better create a stronger, individualized woman after the acquisition of hope. She uses her story; she enlists the help of the reader to put justice and hope back into society. Therefore, "Let us begin."

The poetry by these two poets creates several different images, both overall, each with a different goal, have achieved their purposes. Though from slightly different times, they can both be recognized and appreciated as poets who did not fear the outside, and were willing to put themselves out there to create both truth and beauty.

Works Cited
Clark, Tara. "Alice Walker." Alice Walker. Mark Canada, 1999. Web. 09 Mar. 2014 Tegr, Maja. "Phenomenal Women." Maja RSS. Maja, 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.

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