Symbolism and Allusion in Maya Angelou's My Arkansas Essay

No Works Cited
Length: 808 words (2.3 double-spaced pages)
Rating: Yellow      
Open Document
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Symbolism and Allusion in Maya Angelou's "My Arkansas"         


 "There is a deep brooding/ in Arkansas." Arkansas is stuck in the past, its memories of hatred and crime from ante-bellum days hindering the progression towards Civil Rights. Maya Angelou's poem of the struggle to a new wave of equality uses both general symbolism and historical allusion to make its theme clear to the reader. The poem uses general symbolism in nature, in time, and historical allusion to make the theme clear in a concise but vibrant poem.


The general symbolism relating to nature assumes a common base of knowledge from which symbolism can be built. The poem opens with a description of Arkansas: "Old crimes like moss pend/ from poplar trees./ The sullen earth/ is much too/ red for comfort." The first example of general symbolism in this passage is the reference to moss. Moss is considered the base of the forest, the lowest level from which all of the other plants grow. Although moss is vital to a forest, it is often thought of as slimy and dirty. The moss "pend(s) from poplar trees," our second natural symbol. The poplar tree is weak and useless. Nothing can be built from its wood, and it often bends and breaks during storms. The visual image of the moss clinging to the poplar tree shows the slimy moss as "old crimes" and the poplar tree as the frail attempt at growth and a new but weak beginning. The reader gets a clear sense of the struggle toward a new life that is hindered and held back by the old, dependable moss that has been and always will be present. The second part of the passage discusses the "sullen earth" that is "much too red." Red earth can be symbolic in two ...

... middle of paper ...

...e. Finally at the end of the poem the historical allusion brings the poem to a complete closure, and the theme of starting fresh is put into a more specific context. The "old hates" and "old crimes" are referring to those against African-Americans in the days of slavery. the new beginning for Arkansas is the attempt to reach equality, leaving the past behind.


"Today is yet to come in Arkansas." Reading Angelou's poem shows the reader a new perspective on civil rights and its applicability in society. The use of general symbolism found in nature through the weak poplar tree hindered by moss and the cautious sun, paired with the historical allusion to the ante-bellum times make the theme of the poem clear. The past cannot be forgotten, and may hinder the future. Arkansas' struggle toward the future "writhes in awful/ waves of brooding" of the past.


Click the button above to view the complete essay, speech, term paper, or research paper

This essay is 100% guaranteed.

Title Length Color Rating  
Allusion and Symbolism in The Swimmer Essay examples - ... Less clearly, Merrill perverts baptism, the immersing of one into water in order to save them, by constantly immersing himself in water on a drunken quest to return to his old life, that he has, due, one again, to alcohol, forgotten he lost (“Perverted Sacraments”). This quest on which Merrill has embarked is what the allusion to Ponce de Leòn centers around. This allusion was first brought to attention by Charlie Sweet, in collaboration with Blythe Hal in 1989. Throughout the narrative, Cheever makes many parallels from Merrill's journey to that of an explorers, but it is never made explicit which explorer he is referring to, if any....   [tags: john cheever, alussion, alcoholism]
:: 4 Works Cited
564 words
(1.6 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Symbolism and Allusion Essay - Symbolism and Allusion What major symbols are used. How appropriate is each symbol in its respective poem. How do the poets use the symbols to focus on the problems they present in their poems. Allusions and symbols are critical components of an interesting and understandable poem. Poets rely heavily on them because of the need to economize their words. Poems don't waste words on detailed explanations in order to be understood. They rely instead on the reader to use his own process for interpreting and connecting to the meaning, whether or not he understands the allusions or symbolism....   [tags: Papers] 986 words
(2.8 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Maya Angelou Inspires Confidence in Women Essay - Maya Angelou is not just known for being a poet, novelist, educator, producer, actor, musician, and civil right activist, but also as one of the most renowned and influential voices. Maya Angelou was born as Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Stamps, Arkansas. As a child, she had a passion for art. She attended public school in Arkansas and California, and won a scholarship to study dance and drama at San Francisco’s Labor school. At the age of fourteen, Dr....   [tags: Maya Angelou, poetry, women, feminism, ] 538 words
(1.5 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay about Poetry Analysis of Maya Angelou's Caged Bird - Poetry Analysis of Maya Angelou's Caged Bird ‘Caged Bird’ is a poem written by Maya Angelou which considers the conditions of the ‘free bird’ and the ‘caged bird’. Actually this contrast between the birds enables her to express her own emotions about freedom and isolation. The poem is quite symbolic so there are various hidden messages she tries to convey about her feelings mostly indirectly. In the first stanza Maya Angelou breathes life into her description of the ‘free bird’ by using verbs like ‘leaps’, ‘floats’, ‘dips’....   [tags: Poetry Analysis, Maya Angelou] 479 words
(1.4 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay on Use of Allusion and Symbolism in Edward Scissorhands - Use of Allusion and Symbolism in Edward Scissorhands Nothing just happens in film. Directors all make certain choices in production in order to invite a particular response from the audience. The film, Edward Scissorhands is based around the introduction of a social outcast into a community and his attempts at acceptance. Although at first he is accepted whole heartedly and somewhat smothered, he later learns that despite how human he is, he cannot co-exist in the same world due to his differences....   [tags: Papers] 694 words
(2 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Essay about Maya Angelou: A Source of Humanity - Maya Angelou: A Source of Humanity "I am human," Angelou said, "and nothing human can be alien to me" (Shafer). Maya Angelou just may be the most "human" person in the world. Indeed, with all of the struggles she went through in her early life, her humanness increasingly deepened. Her life was characterized by the instability of her childhood and her family, along with the challenge of being a black woman growing up in 19th century America. The deepness of her humanness is evident in all of her writings, from her autobiographies to her poetry....   [tags: Writer Maya Angelou Essays]
:: 6 Works Cited
1332 words
(3.8 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Symbolism and Allusion in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers - Symbolism and Allusion in Langston Hughes' The Negro Speaks of Rivers In Langston Hughes' poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", he examines some of the roles that blacks have played throughout history. Ultimately, the poem asserts that in every one of these aspects the black people have been exploited and made to suffer, mostly at the hands of white people. The poem is written entirely in first person, so there is a very personal tone, even though the speaker symbolizes the entire black race. The examples of each role cited in the poem are very specific, but they allude to greater indignities, relying on the readers' general knowledge of world history....   [tags: Negro Speaks Rivers Langston Hughes Essays]
:: 1 Works Cited
732 words
(2.1 pages)
Better Essays [preview]
Maya Angelou Essay - This piece of autobiographical works is one of the greatest pieces of literature and will continue to inspire young and old black Americans to this day be cause of her hard and racially tense background is what produced an eloquent piece of work that feels at times more fiction than non fiction In 1970, a child with skinny legs and muddy skin was introduced into African American literature. Born marguerite Johnson she became known as Maya Angelou (Lupton 51). Her critically acclaimed works have changed the way of the African American autobiography is written....   [tags: Biography Maya Angelou] 955 words
(2.7 pages)
Good Essays [preview]
Essay about Maya Angelou - Maya Angelou A poet, an author, a play-write, an actress, a mother, a civil-rights activists, historian and most important a survivor. Perhaps Maya Angelou, award winning author of many books, is one of the most influential African Americans in American history. I believe that she rates at the top of the list of American authors, with Hemingway, Hawthorne, and Voight. I believe through my research and reading of Maya Angelou that she should be among the members of The American Authors Hall of Fame....   [tags: Poet biography bios Maya Angelou Essays]
:: 3 Works Cited
1359 words
(3.9 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]
Essay on Maya Angelou - Distress in Maya Angelou's Life Marguerite Ann Johnson, commonly known as Maya Angelou, was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a famous African-American poet, novelist, and playwright and also worked during the civil rights: "Angelou is a very remarkable Renaissance woman who hailed as one of the great voices of contemporary literature" ( She is also an activist in civil-rights. Angelou went through many controversies during her childhood and adulthood; her romantic life was never joyful and there are questions that come consecutively in my mind: how does Angelou's "Artful Pose" demonstrates the attitude toward writing of her poetry....   [tags: Maya Angelou Biography Poet African American] 1173 words
(3.4 pages)
Strong Essays [preview]