Maya Angelou Model Response and Structure


Write a paragraph in which you explain how Angelou uses language in paragraphs 54-62 to convey her evolving view of graduation and herself:

Model Paragraph (Structural scheme follows…)

In the final part of Angelou’s chapter, the author is rescued from her contempt of the graduation ceremony by Henry Reed, her class’s valedictorian, who reconnects her with the proud heritage of African American poets, who come to symbolize her transcendence of the low expectations set my Mr. Donleavy. Angelou’s contempt is registered when Henry begins to use Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy as part of his graduation speech. Angelou uses the reference to Hamlet to establish a contrast between those who “do” and those who remain aimless and become, “crusher(s) of funky toadstools.” The contrast implies the author’s contempt for Henry’s naive vision of himself as a doer because she realizes he will be forced to remain aimless, stomping the ground. She moves on to question why he would even finish his speech because of its false promise. However, her view changes as soon as Henry defies expectation and begins to sing James Weldon Johnson’s poem. The poem forces the author to recall her ancestors, who in the midst of enslavement, used songs, sermons, and poems to remain optimistic despite their imprisonment. It is this shift in her view that the audience realizes her change in attitude toward graduation. Her contempt for Henry’s false hope, embodied by Hamlet’s largely fruitless attempt to get revenge for his father’s murder, is replaced by hope. The audience picks up on this shift when she repeats “it was” three separate times immediately following the Weldon’s poem. The repetition and certainty in the phrase demonstrates her own certainty, confidence and connection to her past. This quick reconnection allows her to transcend her earlier contempt and rise with the intent to fulfill the promise of her ancestors, who, amidst unimaginable adversity still found hope. Their inspiration from the distant past emboldens Angelou’s spirit. The author’s newfound optimism allows her to search for the means to rise above the low expectations set by Mr. Donleavy’s speech, just as her ancestors did when they rose above their captivity.

Basic Structure:

  1. Topic sentence identifies the part of the writing being analyzed and what that part does to contribute to the larger piece of writing.
  2. Text evidence is used to lend detail to the part’s contribution
  3. Analysis follows a three part pattern
    1. Indicates what the author is doing with the text to connect with the audience
    2. Suggests how the audience understands the author’s intent in the text
    3. Explains how the audience understands the author’s feelings as a result of their understanding of the text
  4. NOTE: There are several transition statements, which are used to direct the analysis and make the author’s intent and the audience’s reaction clear:
  1. In the final part of…
  2. Angelou’s contempt is registered when____
  3. Angelou uses the reference to _____ to establish a contrast between ____
  4. The contrast implies____ because ____
  5. She moves on to question why ______
  6. However, ______
  7. It is this shift in her view that ______
  8. Her contempt for ______ embodied by ______
  9. Audience picks up on ______ when she ______
  10. The repetition in the ______ demonstrates her ______
  11. The author’s _____ allows her to ______ just as _______
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