Language As A Tool In Maya Angelou's &Quot;Graduation&Quot;

927 words - 4 pages

In Maya Angelou's Essay `Graduation' the use of language as a navigational tool is very evident, as it leads from emotion to emotion on the occasion of the author's graduation from eighth grade. Over the course of the work, Angelou displays 3 major emotions simply based from the language she uses; excitement, disappointment and finally, redemption

The beginning of this work focuses on speaking of excitement and joy due to the upcoming eighth grade graduation, "The children in Stamps trembled visibly with anticipation" (835). The children were shaking with excitement due to the impending graduation services. The graduation is the most important thing happening in the town of Stamps, "We even made a sign for the Store....It read clearly "CLOSED GRADUATION" (837). They even closed the town store for the festivities.

The coming of graduation is shown as a proud day, and holds a sunny future for the narrator and her classmates, "My class was wearing butter yellow pique dresses...the lemony cloth...embroidered raised daisies" (835) and "My dress fitted perfectly...everyone said I looked like a sunbeam in it" (837), all these images of warm colors, flowers and butterflies, were scattered throughout the beginning of the work, and contribute to the high spirits and overall happy mood of the day. All of this happiness and sunshine also contributes to the feeling of there is a looming black cloud ahead.

Another emotion portrayed through the narrators language is disappointment. The center of the work is where the story takes a deep turn downward - and the black cloud presents itself. Mr. DonLeavy's presence was insult enough, but to say he was "glad to be here to see the work going on just as it was in the other schools" (838) was outrageous and infuriating to Angelou, "At the first Amen from the audience I willed the offender to immediate death by choking on the word" (838). The mood drops lower with every word Mr. DonLeavy spoke, "The man's dead words fell like bricks around the auditorium" (839) People in the audience were so used to shouting Amens and other encouragements, but these Amens came purely out of habit and they were heavy and slow with disgust.

There was underlying racism in almost everything he said, the praise he gave out was rotten, for it was only praise with athletic reference, .".. one of the first-line tacklers at Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College graduated from good old Lafayette County Training School" (839). Angelou was disgusted at his false commendations, "The white kids were going to have a chance to be Galileos and Madame Curies....and our boys would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Louises" (839). While the white...

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