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Angelou’s and Brooks’ poems show how manipulation of rhyme scheme and alliteration can affect the tone of the poem, as well as the personality of each figure.
“Sadie and Maud” is a consistent rhyming poem, with 5 stanzas consisting of 5 lines each. The uniformity of this format assists the rhythm of the poem to flow consistently throughout. The poem illustrates Sadie’s life significantly more than Maud’s, evidenced in the structure of the poem – 15 lines deal with Sadie’s life, and only 5 deal with Maud’s life. As well as the imbalance in line distribution between the girls, the poem is structured similar to that of a painting. The “frame”, or Maud, is the focus at the beginning and end. However, it is the picture that creates and captures interest not the frame, and Sadie’s story is the “picture’. Sadie is perceived as interesting and vivacious, while Maud is only seen peripherally with no sustained interest. The title, “Sadie and Maud” illustrates this well.
“Phenomenal Woman” is loosely rhyming with four stanzas. As it is a lyrical poem, the rhythm and metre vary, as shown in lines 3 and 4, “But when I start the tell them, / They think I’m telling lies.” The beat is iambic, which is also shown in line 9 in Sadie and Maud – “Sadie bore two babies”.
The rhyme scheme throughout “Sadie and Maud” has a consistent “abcb” structure, which gives the poem a controlled and calm atmosphere. At the start of stanza 3, an internal rhyme places emphasis on the statement by altering the rhythm of the piece in line 9. This is different to Phenomenal Woman, which does not contain a consistent rhyming scheme.
Alliteration is common throughout both poems and is used to convey the emotion of character. For example, in Sadie and Maud, the repetition of the ‘s’ and long ‘e’ sound is often found when talking about Sadie. It helps emphasise her playful and carefree nature. To contrast, Brooks intentionally uses minimalistic alliteration in the lines related to Maud to convey a more formal tone. The use of the ‘l’ sound in the penultimate line of the poem is slow and sullen, relating back to Maud’s character.
Similarly, Angelou uses alliteration and assonance to convey the tone in which the poem should be read. In the line “pretty women wonder where” the ‘w’ consonant is repeated, creating a breathy sound to mimic a women’s allure. “the sun of my smile’ is another example, using the ‘s’ sound to create a pleasant and calm tone.
To conclude, there are many similarities in the structural elements, the tone varies in each poem. Throughout “Phenomenal Woman” the speaker is confident, and certain of her worth and beauty. She is sensual, recognising her appeal to men, but also jubilant in celebrating female empowerment. In comparison, “Sadie and Maud” illustrates how society shuns women like Sadie.
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