Human Identity In Maya Angelou's 'Graduation Day'

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Within the confines of “Graduation Day” by Maya Angelou lies the intricate story of an African American girl struggling with the societal standards of the 1940s. This societal imbalanced resulted in the Caucasian race discriminating, and even segregating from the African American race. Although various issues are held responsible for this societal imbalance, one major contributor to the predicament includes communication and word choice. The classic saying, “sticks and stone may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” Has ran though the head of every Human at some point in their life. Although words can never physically harm, how do they profile human identity? Words shape and define human identity, specifically personal image, through the forms of encouragement and discouragement. Understanding and defining human identity now will put the paper into context. Webster’s Dictionary defines identity as, “the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others”. (WEBS). Following that definition, Human identity is simply defined as one’s personal qualities and beliefs within themselves in regards to the changing environment around them. In Maya’s case in Graduation, the time context plays a major role in the story. Set in the 1940s during the climax of racism. At that time, there…show more content…
Through only the words of Donleavy, Maya’s personal identity changes, from embracing the day she graduates in the world to ruing it, saying, “It’s awful to be a Negro and have no control over my life, it was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and have charges brought against my color with no chance of defense.” (Angelo, 184) This turns her overall perspective of life to a positive outlook ta a negative one just through the speech of one
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