Most of the African American literary icons have unique writing styles that do not match the native speakers or other English writers. Maya Angelou, too, is unique in this context. Her writing style is not only bold and aggressive but also direct and colloquial. The major traits of her writing style, such as diction, syntax, literary devices or figures of speech, rhetoric, and themes, are as follows.
Maya Angelou’s Word Choice
The logic that every writer shows his life through his words in one or the other way fits the case of Maya Angelou. She shows her writer’s persona through her words. Several of her words are bold, courageous, and emotionally charged like her personality. Some of the poems show this trait of her diction. For example, “To a Freedom Fighter”, “Still I Rise”, “The Woman Work” and “Africa” demonstrate the use of aggressive diction. This stanza from her poem “Still I Rise” shows how she uses appropriate diction to convey her message of courage and assertion.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Maya Angelou’s Sentence structure and syntax
Most of the sentences of Maya Angelou have been used in staccato mode. As such sentences are terse and concise, they convey a weighty argument charged with emotions such as “My race groaned” and “Does my sassiness upset you?” or “Just like moons and like suns.” However, this does not mean that she is always the same in verses. She sometimes uses very simple and exclamatory sentences. Even in prose, she is simple and aggressive such as this passage “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” shows it.
“I gotta talk to you, Ritie.” He pulled off his shorts that had fallen to his ankles, and went into the bathroom.
It was true the bed was wet, but I knew I hadn’t had an accident. Maybe Mr. Freeman had one while he was holding me. He came back with a glass of water and told me in a sour voice, “Get up. You peed in the bed.” He poured water on the wet spot, and it did look like my mattress on many mornings.
Maya Angelou’s Figurative Language
Figurative Language of Maya Angelou is also interesting. She uses metaphors even in the tiles of her poems and books such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” or “Still I Rise” and “The Heart of a Woman.” Besides these, she also uses images, personifications, and similes sparingly in her poems and narratives. This stanza from “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” shows this fact of her language.
Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.
Maya Angelou’s Rhythm and Component Sounds
Regarding rhythm, Maya Angelou depends on sounds, syllables, and sound devices. For example, in this stanza from her poem “Woman Work” she has used the sounds of /s/, /r/ and /d/ to make it rhythmic. Even the title of the poem is alliterative. Although most of her poems are in free verse, she also uses rhyme schemes such as ABCB in this stanza.
Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.
Maya Angelou’s Rhetorical Patterns
Maya Angelou has created her own African American rhetoric through her poetic output and autobiographical narratives. She uses comparison and contrast in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” as well as in her poetry such as “Still I Rise” and “Woman Work.” Although she has used gender difference and racial discrimination as the base of her comparison, she also resorts to other devices such as repetition in “Still I Rise” and “Africa” and motifs such as the black color in her narratives. Besides these, she often resorts to rhetorical questions, ethos, and pathos to convince her readers about her argument stated in her poetry and prose.
Maya Angelou’s Themes
Regarding themes, Maya Angelou has written about almost everything under the sun. However, she sparingly writes on racial hatred, pacifism, gender issues, and the struggle against political and racial oppression in poetry. Her poetry and her autobiographies also depict her consciousness about the power of femininity, sexuality, and the boldness of African American femininity as her autobiography’s first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” shows it.