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Analysis of Graduation by Maya Angelou

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Essay title: Analysis of Graduation by Maya Angelou

Michele Dobrayel


Throughout life, graduation, or the advancement to the next distinct level of growth, is sometimes acknowledged with the pomp and circumstance of the grand commencement ceremony, but many times the graduation is as whisper soft and natural as taking a breath. In the moving autobiographical essay, "The Graduation," Maya Angelou effectively applies three rhetorical strategies - an expressive voice, illustrative comparison and contrast, and flowing sentences bursting with vivid simile and delightful imagery - to examine the personal growth of humans caught in the adversity of racial discrimination.

In an expressive voice, Ms. Angelou paints a memorable picture of a small black community anticipating graduation day fifty-five years ago. She describes the children as trembling "visibly with anticipation" and the teachers being "respectful of the now quiet and aging seniors." Although it is autobiographical, an omniscient voice in the first six paragraphs describes how "they" - the black children in Stamps - felt and acted before the omniscient voice changes to a limited omniscient narration in the seventh paragraph. Her eloquent voice skillfully builds the tension as she demonstrates bigotry destroying innocence.

The same consistent, expressive voice introduces Ms. Angelou's effective strategy of comparison and contrast. By comparing what the black schools don't have, such as 'lawn, nor hedges, nor tennis courts, nor climbing ivy,' reveals not only a clear illustration of what luxuries the white schools in the forties had but also how unjust the system was. The adults at the graduation focus on the differences that were previously left unspoken. The black principal's voice fades as he describes "the friendship of kindly people to those less fortunate then themselves" and the white commencement speaker implies that" the white kids would have a chance to become Galileo's.... and our boys would try to be Jesse Owenes..." The author's emotions vary

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