“Alone” by Maya Angelou, a phenomenal American songwriter, poet, and motivational speaker, depicts one of her great philosophies. Maya Angelou once said that survival is not her mission; she intended to thrive in her own particular way. Therefore, keeping the same philosophy onboard, this poem explains why some people fail to thrive in life and why others succeed. The poem unfolds the fact that no one can stand alone in this cruel and unkind world.
It begins when the lonely speaker seems disturbed; her soul is not at peace, and she feels disheartened from the world. To nourish her soul, she desires to speak to people. It seems that loneliness is killing her from the inside out. Therefore, she longs for connection. She dearly believes that people must band together for company and support. To support her idea, she states examples of some people who, despite having wealth, fail to win peace and happiness for themselves. The wives and children of the millionaires are devoid of spiritual wealth. Instead of putting their energies in the right way, they pass their time casually.
She further states that they spend their hoarded wealth while seeking the cure of their hearts made of stone. Their choices and priorities have made them cold, resulting in losing emotions like love, care, and affection. The repetition of the same idea throughout the poem clearly demonstrates that isolation kills people. However, unfortunately, instead of collaborating, people nowadays love to be isolated, private, and sophisticated.
Major Themes in “Alone”
The significant themes spotted in the poem are loneliness, lack of emotions, and the dark side of human nature. The speaker seems hurt by the artificial approach of the people that they ignore others who require love and connection. The speaker in this poem appears unable to soothe her soul that constantly demands human connection and emotional attachment. She is struggling hard to connect to the world, as being alone has dragged her soul toward depression and tension.
She highlights the darker aspect of human nature; people become selfish, self-centered, and flinch-hearted once they become a millionaire. Some millionaires find themselves lonely despite having wealth, and no money can compensate for these complex feelings. Similarly, the wives and children of these millionaires spend their days while performing valuable activities. Although they gain materialistic gain, yet they seem devoid of inner peace and spiritual connection. Their status stops them from making connections to the world. As a result, they visit doctors who fail to cure their illness despite having expertise.
All this happens because man’s wrong choices are constantly corrupting the world. Instead of adopting a loving and caring attitude, people prefer to live lonely. However, the poem’s speaker is in desperate need of company because she believes that no one in the world can live alone. After talking about the changing attitude of humanity, she ends this beautiful poem on a sad note, making her readers realize the pain of loneliness.
Maya Angelou has added variety to this poem by cleverly inserting various poetic elements in it. The first evident device is repetition. Maya Angelou has repeated some verses throughout the poem to reinforce her ideas about the negative impact of loneliness. The reinforcement of the same idea exhibits her sufferings and pain as a loner. She desperately needs someone with whom she can share her feelings and emotions. But, unfortunately, no one is there to understand her deepest desires.
The second most important device that she has used is imagery. The appropriate use of this device has helped her create powerful images in the readers’ minds, such as; “How to find my soul a home” and “Their wives run round like banshees.” To lament the devastating choices of mankind, she has also used situational irony in the poem to show how people, despite having all the blessings remain discontent and lonely.
Moreover, to convey her ideas more effectively, Maya Angelou has also used various symbols in the poem. For instance, “home” symbolizes peace, “hearts of stone” stands for the cold approach of the rich people, and “sing the blue” symbolizes the carefree attitude of humankind. The writer has not used any strict meter in this poem; instead, the poem exhibits a powerful flow of emotions. The simple style, somber tone, and reinforcement of a single idea urge the readers to think deeply about the topic, “Alone.”
In Depth Analysis of “Alone”
Alone” by Maya Angelou is beautifully divided into five stanzas having different number of lines. The analysis of the poem is as follows.
The first stanza of the poem starts with a sad tone. The lonely speaker is trying to comfort her doleful and thirsty soul. The choice of words suggests that she hates being alone. Undoubtedly, she is cut off from the world, but she feels that she might have solved her problems. She suggests that people need company and support to get by.
The second stanza presents the repetition of the last couple of the lines of the previous stanza, where she stated that no one in the world could get along. Since she leads a lonely and isolated life, she can understand the pain it causes to a person who is forced to live in isolation. Therefore, she repeats the same idea that loneliness is a curse.
The third stanza carries the same somber tone. However, in this stanza, the speaker expands the idea by giving some examples of millionaires and their families. She talks about humankind’s changing nature and how they behave when they gain wealth and special status in life. Their hearts turned into stones; they paid no value to others. Their families also walk on the same lines drawn by these millionaires. Despite having all the commodities of life, they avoid feeling the pain of loneliness because we are not made to live in isolation.
This stanza once again reinforces the same idea. The speaker urges the need to be accompanied by people. To her, no one can live alone in this world.
This stanza shifts the narrative; the speaker addresses the listener and tells them that the reason for human suffering is that people are least bothered about their fellow human beings. She informs them that she hears the mournful cries of those neglected and left out in the world. The only cure to this problem is to be gentle and friendly with others. She ends her poem while repeating the same idea that isolation kills people.