The Last Decision

Angelou, Maya

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita
  • Date of entry: Oct-17-1996


Angelou’s four stanza poem is narrated by an elderly person, probably a woman. In each of the stanzas, the proud and forthright speaker dismisses the desire to stay alive. She sizes up her circumstances pragmatically--the inconveniences and disabilities. She can no longer bother with the print that has become "too small," the food that is "too rich," the tiring concerns of her children, and, finally, the weariness of life. Each is addressed in its own stanza, but the concluding refrain is the same; she will give up reading, then eating, then listening--and then life. "Today," she says rather convincingly in her final line, "I’ll give up living."


An elderly woman reviews the physical and emotional conditions of her life and determines that she’s not willing to go on. She doesn’t want help; she wants life to end, today. The poem is useful in discussions about the elderly, especially when paired with A Summer Tragedy by Arna Bontemps, A Clean, Well-lighted Place by Ernest Hemingway, and My Death by Raymond Carver (all annotated in this database).

Primary Source

Shaker, Why Don't You Sing?


Random House

Place Published

New York