Angelou 's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

Angelou 's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

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Maya Angelou’s excerpt from her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” reveals the challenges facing a young black girl in the south. The prologue of the book tells of a young Angelou in church trying to recite a poem she has forgotten. She describes the dress her grandmother has made her and imagines a day where she wakes up out of her black nightmare. Angelou was raised in a time where segregation and racism were prevalent in society. She uses repetition, diction, and themes to explore the struggle of a black girl while growing up. Angelou produces a feeling of compassion and poignancy within the reader by revealing racial stereotypes, appearance-related insecurities, and negative connotations associated with being a black girl. By doing this she forces the reader to think about how society’s ideals on beauty could negatively affect a young black girl.
Angelou begins evoking this feeling of sympathy through the use of repetition. In the beginning of the prologue Marguerite is repeating the phrase “What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay.” The phrase can be associated with someone staring at you. This can particularly be an issue if you are insecure about the way you look. Angelou is indirectly saying that the insecurities Marguerite had caused her to feel awkward and made her want to escape. She feels as though her insecurities such as her skin, kinky mass of hair, and small squinty eyes are not appealing due to society telling her that white features are better. The repetition of this phrase also dramatizes the statement and enables the reader to feel the intensity behind the statement.
Additionally, Angelou uses diction to portray Marguerite’s view of her outer appearance. Through the mood of the words Angelou uses,...


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...economic status of black people in this time period to be poor, lower class.
Marguerite’s equivalence of beauty to typical white characteristics speaks volumes to the time period she’s in. Even though Angelou’s book was published in 1969, it is still relevant in today’s society. Being black and female, you are confronted with feeling not pretty enough; feeling out of place, feeling like the color of your skin and the texture of your hair made you less than others. Confronted with racism, sexism, and society’s standard of what is considered beautiful. Many black girls grow up thinking they aren’t pretty enough and that they have to change to fit society’s mold of what is beautiful. They are even told that their natural look is inappropriate in certain settings. With the help of Maya Angelou’s book, readers are forced to address these ideals and change for the better.

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