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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay

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Question Four
Throughout her life, Marguerite experiences many different situations and people that all contribute to the way she grows up and the person she becomes. Despite some of her tragic circumstances, she learns a lot growing up, mainly because of the African-American women in her life who teach her all different life lessons. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Marguerite gets to absorb teachings from her mother (Vivian), Mrs. Bertha Flowers, and her grandmother (Momma). These women allow Marguerite to learn and grow as an African-American female, all while paving her own way.
Marguerite and her brother, Bailey, are sent to live with their grandmother at three and four, so she had little experience with her mother, Vivian, as a young girl. One of her first memorable encounters with her mother happens when Marguerite and Bailey receive Christmas gifts from their parents. However, up until this point, Marguerite had essentially just thought of her parents as being dead. (Angelou, 52) Later, Marguerite goes back to St. Louis to live with her mother. She is astonished by Vivian’s beauty, as Marguerite does not feel she is beautiful. Despite her previous lack of care for the children, Vivian, according to Marguerite, “was competent in providing for us.” Marguerite also says that while her mother was a nurse, she never worked while the children lived for her and “The straight eight-to-five world simply didn’t have enough glamor for her” so she earned extra money by gambling. (70) Despite eventually moving back in with Momma, the time that she spent with Vivian proved to teach her many things. Though she was not a particularly doting parent, she was incredibly strong. She took care of Marguerite throughout her t...


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...rights and fighting against prejudice.
Despite all of Marguerite’s tragic circumstances and traumatic events, she learned what it meant to be an African-American woman during the early to mid- 20th century through the experiences and lessons via the women in her life. They helped her learn certain characteristics and ways to act in the face of bigotry and harshness from others. She followed their footsteps in many ways, but her own experiences, and the combined lessons from her mother, Mrs. Flowers, and Momma all helped her become her own, new version of an African American woman, who can do it all. One who can eventually grow into Maya Angelou, the poet, mother, activist, performer, and even the first female African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco.



Works Cited
Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Ballantine, 2009. Print.



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