I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing by Maya Angelou

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The text, I know why the Caged Bird Sings was authored by Maya Angelou around the 1930s. The book describes her growth as advanced, but as an insecure young black woman raised in the Southern states in the 1930s and 1940s in California. At the age of three, her parents divorced, but Maya and Bailey went to live with Annie Henderson, their grandmother, in Stamps, the rural part of Arkansas. Maya and Bailey call their grandmother Momma, a businesswoman running a store within the black district. Momma stands as a key figure throughout Maya’s young age. In this case, the paper seeks to provide a report and a summary of the text.

          The two young children endure the pain of rejection and abandonment from their parents. Moreover, Maya gets herself in the suffering of believing that she is not as beautiful as her white peers.  Besides, she feels inferior to fellow black teenagers. On one Easter Sunday, Maya cannot complete reciting a poem in church a situation which elicits feelings of being a failure and ridiculed and runs away from church sobbing, wetting and laughing at herself. Bailey stood with her sister Maya when people mocked her, applying his wit to put other people where they belong.

           Growing up in Stamps was a significant challenge to Maya. She experiences deep-seated racial discrimination in Southern states expressed through terrifying lynch mobs and tiresome daily humiliations.  Maya captures the first-hand experience of the cotton pickers as they journey to and from the fields as she spends time with Momma in her store. At the age of eight Maya’s father whom she does not remember arrives in Stamps and takes his two little children to St. Louis to live with Vivian, their mother. Mr Freeman, Vivian’s boyfriend, raped the young Maya. The family files a case in court, and he is violently murdered possibly by the undercover criminals connected with Maya’s family.

             Finally, Maya had to endure the share and guilt of shame of sexual abuse. Moreover, she profoundly feels that she carries the blame of Mr Freeman’s murder since she declined before court that he raped her. The issues surrounding Maya makes her think that she is as evil as the devil and in response, she stops talking with all other people except her brother Bailey. The family takes her silence at first as a post-trauma rape reaction, but after some time, everybody around grows frustrated and views Maya’s quietness as disrespectful.

             Maya and Bailey gets a second chance of returning to Stamps to reside with Momma. Though Maya is relieved to get this chance, Bailey regrets for the return. The grandmother manages to break Maya’s silence through Mrs Bertha Flowers, an academic who motivates Maya to peruse literature texts loudly and she lends Maya some poetry texts which assists to break the silence.

            Maya’s second spell gives her a chance to experience the weakness and resilience of her society.  She attends revival service in church, and the minister unreservedly uses the opportunity to condemn the hypocrisy advanced by the white people. Maya gains spiritual strength from the sermon though it dissolves immediately as the congregation walks to their respective residents.  Moreover, she experiences how the entire community following the Joe Louis heavyweight boxing encounter earnestly prays for him to preserve his title against the white rival.

           Maya experiences dreadful encounters which open her eyes about the treacherous characteristics of racism. At ten years, a white lady offers an employment opportunity to Maya. The lady gives Maya the name Mary as a nickname for personal benefits. Maya is infuriated by the name and responds by destroying the woman’s beautiful porcelain. Moreover, a white speaker annoys a happy gathering at Maya’s eighth-grade graduation by stating that the black learners only had a hope of becoming sportsmen or servants. At some point, one of Maya’s teeth develops a cavity, and the grandmother seeks dental services from the only dentist in Stamp, who was a white man. However, she does not get any assistance; instead, the dentists insults her by saying that he would rather treat a dog with dental problems than place his hand in her mouth. The last heartbreak happens when Bailey finds a rotting black man’s body and in surprise a white man expresses contentment on seeing the corpse. At this moment Momma begins to worry about the safety of her grandchildren and sets aside finances to take them back to their mother, by then a Californian resident.

              At the age of thirteen, Maya and her brother Bailey joins their mother in California.  Daddy Clidell, a man with a father figure married Vivian and the family relocated to San Francisco, the city where Maya finds comfort for the first time. Maya lives with her father, big Bailey for one summer and she manages to endure his harsh indifference with Dolores, the cruel girlfriend. Maya flees after a fight with Dolores and lives for month with other homeless adolescents in a scrapyard. She goes back to San Francisco stronger and confident. She overcomes racist employment plans, and at fifteen, she becomes the streetcar conductor, the first from the black community. Besides, she gets pregnant at fifteen and manages to hide the pregnancy from her parents until one month to delivery, and she manages to complete her high school education. The book closes as Maya develops confidence as the mother of a newborn baby boy.

December 12, 2023


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Poetry Maya Angelou

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