In Maya Angelou’s poem ‘Still I Rise’and Kate Chopin’s prose piece ‘The Story of an Hour’, the theme of freedom isof great importance and it highlights a fundamental aspect of life thateveryone deserves in order to be happy.
However, we see different attitudes towardsfreedom, from two alternative perspectives: Angelou’s attitude towards freedomstems from being oppressed for being a woman in a society thriving on whitesupremacy, whilst Chopin writes during a time of male dominance and wishes toseek freedom from her marriage. Nevertheless, both Angelou and Chopin presenttheir attitudes towards freedom by using it as strength against oppression.Angelou’s bold attitude towardsfreedom is immediately seen from her first line, where she challenges heroppressors by directly addressing them in the second person. Doing this displaysher courage and pride, presenting her as a strong character, who is not afraidto stand up against those treating her wrongly and denying her of freedom. Herdetermined tone, in which she tells the reader “they may write her downin history… but still, like dust, she’ll rise”, conveys she will notback down from fighting for freedom. Interestingly, she chooses to compareherself to “dust”, which generally has negative connotationsassociated with filth and something that needs to be gotten rid of. Yet,Angelou is able to use this simile positively to reflect her experiences andturn it into strength of character. It enforces the idea of something goodcoming about as a result of something bad.
In contrast to Angelou’s powerfulopening, when Mrs Mallard introduced, the impression of a feeble woman “afflictedwith a heart trouble” is given, creating the persona of someone in need ofsaving. Chopin makes many references to Mrs Mallard being trapped and feeling “powerless”,which evokes sympathy from the reader, although the reader learns of the “monstrousjoy that held her”, making them feel less sympathetic towards her plightas it portrays her as a woman with conflicted feelings. On the other hand, herdelight can be justified because she feels imprisoned by her marriage andduties towards her husband, gaining freedom from which, gives her a new”spring of life”. This is described very vividly through the use ofpathetic fallacy; “the patches of blue sky showing here and there throughthe clouds”, suggests some sadness as there are connotations of darknessassociated with “clouds”, although the “blue sky” gives theimpression of hope and brightness in the future that stems from her gainingfreedom.The idea of hope and brightness canalso be seen in ‘Still I Rise’ and is conveyed definitively by Angelou, whosees her freedom as being “just like moons and like suns, /with thecertainty of tides”. This optimistic attitude towards her freedom showsthat she will always rise and come up again even if she is put down; bycomparing herself to “moons and suns… and tides”, she conveys aconstant hope of being freed from racism. She builds on this in the followingstanza by using a series of rhetorical questions, which work to make the readerconsider the repercussions of showing prejudice.
For example, “did youwant to see me broken?”, makes the reader feel ashamed of themself because”broken” implies something cannot be put back together,contrasting how Angelou will always comeback whole. The effect is increased through the emotive language she uses,which helps to create an image of a person with “shoulders falling downlike teardrops”. This comparison works to make the reader feel guilty asteardrops denote sadness, which makes them realise how their discriminationaffected her. Whilst Angelou is certain she wantsfreedom and will fight against whoever she must in order to gain it, Chopindescribes the desire as gradually increasing and is seen to be “creepingout… reaching toward Mrs Mallard” subtly, but soon she realises she is”free, free, free”. Her initial response displays some apprehension,yet the repetition of “free”, showing an awareness of reality, is sustainedthrough the rest of the text as we are told “she kept whispering”,indicating she could be trying to convince herself that she is finally free. Atthis point, we see a shift in her attitude: she embraces her newfound freedomby “drinking in the very elixir of life”. This metaphor is very powerfulin the story as it sums up Mrs Mallard’s attitude towards freedom. Generally,”elixir” is associated with magic, therefore suggesting that gainingfreedom from her husband is like a supernatural occurrence.
The gaining of freedom in ‘Still IRise’ is presented very cleverly through the structure of the poem: whileAngelou structures the poem as a quatrain, when she rises “out of thehut’s of history’s shame”, she breaks this quatrain structure to mimicbreaking free from oppression. Additionally, she uses enjambment in her finaltwo stanzas, where “she rises”, to physically separate herself”from a past that’s rooted in pain”. The emotive language evokes pityas the word “rooted”, suggests a strong, foundation of struggle andhardship, referring to the slavery that she and her ancestors had to face becauseof their race. She ends her poem optimistically using the repeated tricolon”I rise/ I rise/ I rise” to signify she will keep on rising abovewhatever struggles she faces, as well as displaying her resilient attitudetowards freedom, all the way until the end.Comparatively, Chopin presents thegain of Mrs Mallard’s freedom from her life as a divinity.
The way Mrs Mallard”carries herself unwittingly like a goddess of victory”, implies asense of attained powerfulness and triumph, as well as painting her as a moreelegant and regal character. This contrasts the beginning, where she ispresented as faint-hearted; it shows the power that freedom has to change theattitude of a character. However, the ending is the most intriguing: upon learningher husband is alive, the reader is told she “had died of heartdisease–of the joy that kills”. The dramatic irony in this encourages thereader to consider the importance of freedom. While the other characters of thestory thought she died from being overjoyed by her husband’s return, the readerknows that her death is attributed to her lost freedom. Chopin uses dramaticirony to convey her attitude towards freedom as being critical to survival anddisplays that a loss of it can be devastating.From the two texts, it is clear thatattitudes towards freedom are presented strongly through the subject matter. In’Still I Rise’, Angelou presents her attitude to freedom with a maintained toneof confidence and assertiveness, whereas in ‘The Story of an Hour’, Chopin usesthe character of Mrs Mallard to present the extent of a married woman’s freedomat the time.