Summary of “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”

“Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou is a symbolic poem. Maya Angelou, an iconic American writer, poet, and activist, catalogs the things that do not scare her. In fact, the poem is a declaration of strength and courage, with the speaker confidently stating that she is not afraid of the various things that might scare others.

The speaker lists a variety of fears, such as shadows on the wall, noises down the hall, bad dogs barking loudly, big ghosts in a cloud, mean old Mother Goose, lions on the loose, dragons breathing flame, tough guys fighting, panthers in the park, and strangers in the dark. She states these haunting images to reassure the readers that these things do not scare her at all. The poem also mentions the speaker’s ability to make fun of the things that run away when she goes “Boo” and her ability to smile, making things go wild.

Furthermore, the poem also mentions that the only time the speaker is afraid is in her dreams, but she has a magic charm to keep herself safe. The poem concludes with a declaration of self-confidence and self-empowerment, encouraging the reader to overcome their fears and not to be afraid of life.

To read the entire poem, please click here.

Major Themes of “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”

The poem’s central themes are fear, power, courage, and strength. The poem primarily speaks about the power of fear and how it can be overcome. The poem is written from the perspective of a child who is not afraid of the things that most people would be afraid of, such as shadows on the wall, big ghosts in a cloud, dragons breathing flame, lions on the loose,  and strangers in the dark.

The poem’s speaker is determined not to let these things scare her, and she uses her imagination to make fun of them, saying that she dares to make them disappear. She also has a magic charm that keeps her safe, giving her the power to walk the ocean floor and never have to breathe. This is a metaphor for her inner strength and confidence to overcome obstacles.

Thus, this powerful poem encourages readers not to let fear hold them back and to trust their inner strength and ability to overcome obstacles. It also reminds us that sometimes, children can see the world differently and more positively than adults.

Analysis of Poetic Elements Used in “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”

Poetic elements are used to enhance the intended impact of the seemingly simple texts. Maya Angelou has added a variety of powerful poetic diction to make her poem a worth read. She has used imagery, symbolism, metaphor, and various other literary elements to convey a message of fearlessness and confidence.

The poem begins with imagery of shadows on the wall and noises down the hall, setting a tone of eerie and unsettling surroundings. The poem’s imagery and repetition create a firm conviction in the speaker’s words. For instance, the use of vivid imagery helps her describe her actions in response to these supposed scares, such as “I go boo, make them shoo” and “I won’t cry, so they fly.” This imagery adds a playful and childlike tone to the poem, further emphasizing the speaker’s fearlessness.

Moreover, she uses personification in “mean old Mother Goose” and “big ghosts in a cloud,” adding a touch of humor and lightness to the otherwise ominous list of things that don’t frighten the speaker.

In the final stanza, the speaker adds a touch of magic to her fearlessness by mentioning a “magic charm” she keeps up their sleeve and her ability to walk the ocean floor without breathing. This use of magical elements adds a sense of fantasy and wonder to the poem and further reinforces the idea that the speaker is not afraid of anything.


To conclude, the use of imagery, repetition, personification, and magical elements in the poem helped the writer convey a message of fearlessness and confidence in facing life’s challenges.

Suggested Readings

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

“A Brave and Startling Truth” by Maya Angelou