“Phenomenal Woman” written by Maya Angelou is a poem that every woman can relate to. Angelou explains how she is a confident woman throughout each stanza. Harold Bloom states that “In this Hymn-like poem to women’s beauty, the self-confident speaker reveals her attributes as a phenomenal woman”. Angelou tries to show her confidence in every line of the poem and then states what parts of her body actually shows that confidence and inner strength. Vitality Kotyakov said that “Modern society highly values women’s beauty”(Analysis of Phenomenal Women By Maya Angelou). Women now put them selves down because they do not think about their inner beauty they only listen to what other people may say about them. This poem really explains how to have confidence in your self no matter how you look. In each stanza her confidence is shown by her inner strength through symbolism, tone, and imagery.
Angelou expresses how to be a confident woman through symbolism. She describes how she holds her head up even though she is not perfect. Angelou says “I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size”(line 2). Which shows her confidence in herself even though she is not skinny or tall or even as pretty as many she is still beautiful in her own way. Also, she states “It’s in the reach of my arms, The span of my hips, The stride of my step, The curl of my lips” (6-9). Every body part could stand for a different symbol her “arms” could be she reaches for everything she wants, her “hips” shows that no matter how wide her hips maybe she will hold confidence in herself because she knows how beautiful she really is. “Stride of my step” goes along with the “hips” that she will walk with confidence, “curl of my lips” means although she may be a quiet person and not loud when she does speak it has more meaning to it than most. In every move she makes others can see the beauty that she holds although she maybe different in a way from others. “Attractive personality is much more powerful then attractive genetics or any ability to fill in an impossible role”(Kotyakov). Having a better personality will get a person a lot farther in life than just being pretty and skinny. “Angelou saw at first hand the indignities that black residents suffered as a result of the prejudices of the white community in Stamps” (Maya Angelou By: Williamson). Having to witness something as horrible as this it would naturally tear any black woman down. The symbolism in the poem is so outstanding that every woman can strive to believe they are also phenomenal, it can also help women show their inner strength through having confidence in themselves.
The tone in this poem is so deeply written with compassion that it is easily understandable. Kotyakoy says “they seem not to know what it means to be unique, but regard the highest aim as the standard society sets for beauty.” Pressure is put on women so much to be beautiful that they will do whatever can be done to look like models. Maya Angelou just explains through the tone of the poem how to still be proud of the way you look, and have confidence in your self. When she says at the end of each stanza “Phenomenally, Phenomenal women, That’s me”(11-13). This statement just shows her confidence in herself and how proud she is of being a woman. Phenomenal just means extraordinary and Angelou shows how she is different from other women but yet the same in many ways. And, how no matter what someone may think of her or how she looks she is still proud and will hold her head up because she knows she is phenomenal. She says “Men themselves have wondered, What they see in me. They try so much, But they can’t touch, My inner mystery”(30-34). This shows her confidence and shows how she knows that no one can understand her that the men know there is something special about her but they can not figure out what it may be. Because, the tone is so strong the reader is able to feel the pain that Angelou has but, also see her inner strength and the confidence that she holds within her self.
The way Maya Angelou wrote the poem it makes it very easy to see the imagery in each stanza. Angelou says “it’s the fire in my eyes, and the flash of my teeth, the swing in my waist, and the joy in my feet”(22-25). In this quote you can picture a women walking in to a room with her head held high and being proud of whom she is, in the way that Maya describes her self. The reader is able to picture Angelous inner strength because of how she words everything. “I don’t shout or jump about, Or have to talk real loud, when you see me passing, it ought to make you proud”(48-51). With this quote you are able to picture a calm women that does not want to attract attention, but people still look and wonder what she is about. Williamson stated “Angelou was raped by a friend of her mother.” When thinking of someone being raped you would naturally think of someone that keeps to them self. Being raped would make anyone loose all confidence in them self and definitely not make them feel beautiful. But, Angelou is able to still hold her head up and know that she is beautiful despite what may have happened to her throughout her life.
Some people may argue that Maya Angelou does not show inner strength through symbolism, tone, and imagery. Maybe the symbolism does not show the inner strength and it just shows that Angelou is full of her self or that she may think she is better than others. But, depending on how you read the poem rather you have your mind open for a variety of things depend on what you get out of it. Some may think that the tone has nothing to do with confidence either, that it is just how she wrote it, which makes it, sounds strong. But, when in reality you are able to understand the majority of the poem through the tone. Also, the imagery may not show the confidence that Maya Angelou holds but, when reading the poem you are able to picture everything that is said. The imagery is so strong that you can not do anything but see the confidence that Angelou holds within her self.
Maya Angelou is such a strong poetry writer that any one is able to see exactly what she means with each poem. But, this particular poem shows her confidence, because of the way it is written you are able to understand exactly what she is talking about as soon as you begin to read. Although, she is mainly talking about her self women can relate to this, because it is either how they hold them selves or how they would like too. Maya Angelou says, “I’m not a fashion model size” (2) but, then says “The need for my care” (56). Angelou knows that she is not exactly what every man wants, but because she has extreme confidence in her self she knows that every man needs the care of a woman. And not every man will only go for the most beautiful woman, some will look at what they hold inside and not exactly how their appearance is. Her Confidence is shown through her inner strength and because of that the reader is able to see and understand the symbolism, tone, and imagery that she placed in the poem.
Angelou, Maya. Phenomenal Woman. Exploring Literature: Writing and Arguing about Fiction, Poetry, and the Essay. Ed Frank Madden. 4th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2009. 774-775. Print.
Bloom, Harold. “Thematic Analysis of “Phenomenal Woman”. (2001). 44-45. Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
Kotyakay, Vitality. “Analysis of Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou”. Associated Content from Yahoo!, 27 Oct. 2009. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. http://associatedcontent.com/article/2318742/analysis_of_phenomenal_woman_by_maya.html?cat=38
Williamson. “Maya Angelou.”(1997). Literary Reference Center. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.