I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay, Research Paper

Kelly Stoy

?If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the

razor that threatens the throat.? In the novel I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, Marguerite

Johnson goes from a little southern black girl who wishes to be a ?a long and blonde haired, light-blue eyed, white

girl?, to a very mature young adult that is proud of her race. Throughout Marguerite?s (Maya?s) life she goes

through many difficulties and triumphs. Some of which a person could never imagine of going through. Maya goes

from being a very shy and strange black girl, to a certain and self-confident young woman. In I Know Why The

Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, Marguerite has to deal with prejudice, rape, and also the issues of

abandonment in her course of becoming a mature woman.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings takes place in the 1930s to the 1940s. During this time period Blacks

were discriminated against. Being a child in this period, Maya experiences how difficult life is with prejudice

people. For example, with all the discrimination going on, Maya wishes to be a white girl. She says ?Wouldn?t they

be surprised when one day I woke out of my black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blond, would

take the place of the kinky mass that Momma wouldn?t let me straighten? My light-blue eyes were going to

hypnotize them…..Then they would understand why I had never picked up a Southern accent, or spoke the

common slang, and why I had to be forced to eat pigs? tails and snouts. Because I was really white and because a

cruel fairy stepmother, who was understandably jealous of my beauty, had turned me into a too-big Negro girl, with

nappy black hair, broad feet and a space between her teeth?. She experiences how mean and harsh white people are

to the black people. For example, Maya saw her grandmother ?Momma? be insulted by a bunch of ?powitetrash?

kids. They were making fun of how she was standing on the front porch and how she was humming Church songs.

After getting bored of mocking her, one of the girls had revealed herself to Momma. Throughout the whole episode

Momma stood straight and stiff and kept humming her Hymns. This showed Maya that a black person doesn?t

have to always react to what white people say or do towards them. Being strong and showing that a person is not

afraid is the best thing to do when being harassed. Momma also contributes to Maya?s maturing by Maya starts to

take pride in her race even with all the prejudice. Momma stands up and speaks out to the white dentist, which was

the only one in Stamps, who wouldn?t treat Maya?s toothache because he didn?t want to put his hand into a black

person?s mouth. He says that he would rather put his hand down a dog?s mouth than Maya?s. Another example of

Maya beginning to take pride in her race is when a white man came to her grammar school graduation and spoke

of the future for the white and black school. The white school would get all the new Science equipment, and the

black students would get a playing field. He told the black students that the whites were going to be the smart

?Galileos and Madame Curries?, and the blacks were going to be the athletes, ?maids and farmers, handymen and

washerwomen.? This had angered Maya and others and they all participated in the Negro National Anthem. She

then said ?I was no longer simply a member of the proud graduating class of 1940; I was a proud member of the

wonderful, beautiful Negro race.? Maya overcomes the discriminations of this time and starts to slowly mature. She

has many other hard things to overcome on her path to becoming a mature young adult.

Maya has to deal with the hardest thing that anybody could imagine a child to go through. She deals with

a rape. Maya?s rape was a very difficult thing to overcome. It took a lot of time and help from others. Maya?s

mother had let her and Bailey (her brother) to come and live with her and her boyfriend, Mr. Freeman. No girl

would ever think that a man would ever do something as bad as rape to them. Maya looked at Mr. Freeman as a

?father figure?. He was the only real man that was a part of her life. Being at a young age she thought that Mr.

Freeman just loved and cared for her, just like any little girl would. But it went farther and farther. Mr. Freeman

eventually forces her to have sex, and threatens her not to tell anybody. Any frightened little girl would have no

idea what to do except to be quiet, like Maya had done. Going through this horrifying experience she became

stronger and stronger. She had to deal with the rape and having everyone know about it. Maya first deals with the

rape by going into a depression. She doesn?t talk or do anything. Maya then finds a good role model who helps her

to overcome the rape and to grow up. Mrs. Bertha Flowers. Having a role model gives Maya a chance to get over

the rape and learn to cope with it. Mrs. Flowers allowed Maya to come out of her depression and learn about many

different things. For example, to help Maya to come out of depression she says to her ?Now no one is going to

make you talk-possibly no one can. But bear in mind, language is man?s way of communicating with his fellow

man and it is language alone which separates him from the lower animal?. Mrs. Flowers, also introduces Maya to

reading books, she learns that she must be biased of ignorance, but understanding of the illiteracy, and also Mrs.

Flowers introduced her to cookies and tea. Mrs. Flowers is a big influence on Maya by she helps her to overcome

the rape and teaches her about the different things in life. But Maya still overcomes another hard issue that

contributes to her maturing.

Abandonment is an issue that many kids go through. Kids? parents today often abandon them and give

them to other people to take care of them. In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya is like many other kids and

abandoned by her mother and father, and she has to learn to take care of herself. When a person is abandoned, they

learn about the hard roads of life. Nobody is there to help them through it. A person is alone and learns to live life

the best that they know how. Abandonment is a big part of Maya?s life. For example, when she first moved to

Stamps it was because her mother and father could not take care of her or Bailey. Maya had to deal with the fact

that her mother and father did not want the responsibility of taking care of her or her brother. So, she and Bailey

take care of each other. They help each other out in bad situations, and they can only talk with each other. For

example, when Maya was raped the only person that she could talk to was Bailey. So, at a young age Maya already

was learning to take care of herself. This leads to many other times of being abandoned. When Maya and Bailey

moved back to their mother?s house in California she sent them back to Momma?s house in Stamps, because she

couldn?t deal with the fact that Maya had been raped by her boyfriend. Maya then had to deal with the rape all by

herself and the only guidance she had was from a friend Mrs. Flowers. Maya also is abandoned when she goes to

spend the summer with her father. This is because Maya and her father?s girlfriend, Dolores, did not get along so

her father told her to sleep at a neighbor?s house and abandoned her. Maya wound up sleeping in a car in a

junkyard and lived life with other abandoned kids. This event was very important in her maturing. This is because

she then starts to take on responsibilities of surviving and deciding to go back to her mother?s house. In doing this

Maya overcomes many different obstacles. She ventures out into the world of discrimination and looks for a job. In

all the times of trying to become a conductor she finally succeeds and gets it. This is a great accomplishment to her

because she becomes the first black conductor. She had no help from anyone and did it all by herself. She is also

deserted when she is questioning her sexuality. This means that Maya was not certain if she was a lesbian or not.

So, without help from her mother she goes to the first guy she sees and has sex with him. If her mother had not let

her alone and guided her through this problem she would never had done this. In doing this she becomes pregnant.

This is when Maya really matures and learns that she must grow up. Without any guidance through her life she

never knew the difference between right or wrong. All the times that she was abandoned or not guided through her

childhood resulted in her getting pregnant. If Maya was never abandoned from her parents and other people then

maybe she would have never made these bad choices.

During this time period and living in the South, it makes Maya?s life difficult to experience. She grows up

very fast and learns about things that a normal child or teenager would not know at this time. She matures quickly

by the discriminations, her rape, and being abandoned throughout her childhood. As a teenager, Maya seems to be

an older woman because of all the difficulties and the triumphs that she has gone through. Today, kids are growing

up very quickly, and they need the help of adults and examples from adults to understand what?s going on around



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