Summary of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay

Summary of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essay

Length: 4072 words (11.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Summary of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya recalls an Easter Sunday at the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Arkansas. Her mother makes her a special Easter dress from lavender taffeta, and Maya thinks the dress will make her look like the blond-haired blue-eyed movie star that she wishes, deep down, to be. But, the dress turns out to be drab and ugly, as Maya laments that she is black, and unattractive as well. She leaves her church pew to go to the bathroom, and doesn't make it; she runs from the church, ashamed, but glad to be out of church and away from the children who torment her, and make her childhood even harder than it already is.
Analysis:

One of the main themes of this chapter is race and appearance; Maya already establishes that she wanted to be a movie-star looking white girl as a child, and tried to deny her real appearance. Connected with the idea of race is beauty, as Maya describes images of blond hair and blue eyes as the paragon of beauty, and says her appearance is merely a "black ugly dream" that she will wake out of.
Maya seems to have been an imaginative child, as she envisions her "head [bursting] like a dropped watermelon" from trying to hold her bladder. Angelou shows a talent for using images to explain and clarify feelings, and employing her descriptive powers to make even mundane incidents very vivid.
This autobiography, which covers Maya's life from age 3 to age 16, is often considered a bildungsroman since it is primarily a tale of youth and growing into young adulthood. However, unlike a typical, novel-form bildungsroman, the story does not end with the achievement of adulthood; Angelou continues to write about her life in four other volumes, all addressing her life chronologically from her childhood to the accomplishments of her adulthood. It is important to keep in mind that this is an autobiography, rather than a novel, and that the narrator and the author are indeed one and the same, and the events described in the book are intended to relate a very personal portrait of a person's life.
Chapter 1:
Summary:

Maya says that when she was three years old and her brother was four, they were sent from their father in California to their paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. They were eventually embraced by the town, and lived at the back of the store that their grandmother and uncle owned and ran. ...


... middle of paper ...


...al and flawed.
The images and words chosen to represent St. Louis tell of the children's fear of this new place, and their apprehension at being taken to live with someone they don't know. The "crowded-together, soot-covered buildings" are completely alien, and a bit bleak to them. They may have been driving "to Hell" for all the children knew, with their uncertainty and fear coloring the strange landscape. She begins to believe in "Grownups' Betrayal," as again they are being let down by their father; her tone reveals her hurt and bitterness at being reclaimed by their father, only to be sent away once again.
Angelou describes her mother as being like "a hurricane in its perfect power," or "the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow"; these metaphors convey that Maya's mother is a flawless work of nature, vibrant, powerful, and very beautiful. Maya seems to admire her from afar, too, like you would admire a rainbow from afar; but the instant power of the children's love for her is encapsulated in the two cliched phrases "struck dumb" and "love at first sight." Although Maya might feel a bit distant from her mother, nevertheless the love she feels brings them a little closer.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

- Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya shields herself against the confusion of St. Louis by reading fairy-tales and telling herself that she does not intend on staying there anyway. Vivian works in a gambling parlor at night....   [tags: Angelou Caged Bird Book Summary Review Analysis]

Powerful Essays
1676 words (4.8 pages)

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

- 1) Summary of Character Traits  a) School smart (Maya is smart. When she moves to San Francisco from Stamps, Arkansas, she is skipped a grade.)  b) Caring sister (she always talks of her devotion to Baily)  c) Determined (she wants to get a job with the streetcar company and she keeps bugging them until they finally give her a job)  d) Proud (she lives with the junkyard kids instead of going back to her father’s; she slaps Dolores for calling her mother a whore) 2) Appearance  a) African American, tall, skinny, small and squinty eyes, big feet, large gap between her front teeth, black hair 3) What The Character Wants  a) Maya wants, ulti...   [tags: essays research papers]

Powerful Essays
1323 words (3.8 pages)

Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

- Maya Angelou explains ( in her autobiography, Why the Caged Bird Sings,) why her religious background and church upbringing are so important to her life and poetic writing. I came to know Jesus, as I was married and sad, I found in him a resting place, and He made me glad. (page 124). She also states The good Lord gave me another day and I 'm thankful. (page 122). I know I am a witness for my Lord. (Page 124). The Bible says, he who can hear let them hear. Maya wants the world to hear her sing through her poetry....   [tags: Racism, Jesus, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings]

Powerful Essays
836 words (2.4 pages)

Symbolism In I Know Why A Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou Essay

- Those without freedom suffer through imprisonment. Not being to be one’s true self can result in damaging results in a person’s state of mind and success. A person who constantly feels the weight of discrimination is often lacking in complete happiness. In I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou uses narration to effectively achieve her purpose of illustrating that despite being oppressed, one still longs for freedom symbolism and imagery. Firstly, Maya Angelou uses symbolism to effectively achieve her purpose of illustrating that despite being repressed, one still longs for freedom....   [tags: Discrimination, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings]

Powerful Essays
772 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Cages

- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings:  Cages            Maya Angelou wrote an amazing and entertaining autobiography titled I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, about her hard life growing up as a black girl from the South.  Among the hardships are things known as "cages" as stated as a metaphor from Paul Dunbar's poem "Sympathy."  "Cages" are things that keep people from succeeding in life and being everything they want to be.  Some of Maya Angelou's cages include being black in the 1940's and her overbearing grandmother.  In my life, a "cage" is my young age, this causes problems with adults....   [tags: Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essays]

Free Essays
916 words (2.6 pages)

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings Essay

- In the autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the main character Marguerite Johnson, is influenced by a preponderance of characters including Bailey Jr. , Momma Henderson, and Mrs. Bertha Flowers. One of the primary influences is her older brother, Bailey Jr.. Momma, or Annie Henderson, the parental grandmother, also plays an important role for Maya. Additionally, Mrs. Flowers, the black aristocrat of Stamps, saves Maya during an especially difficult time. All in all, these three characters act as important role models in the development of Marguerite through her juvenile years....   [tags: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings]

Powerful Essays
500 words (1.4 pages)

Essay on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Storm the Battlefronts

- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Storm the Battlefronts I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  Maya Angelou's novel is a classic tale of growing up black in the American South in the 1930s and 40s. Even though Marguerite's and her brother Bailey's childhood and early youth are probably far from typical for the average black family of that time, the book nonetheless can be read as a parable of what it meant and still means to be a black person in an overwhelmingly white society. The story is told from a "black" point of view and is thus a more "politically correct" representation of race relationship and prejudice than Harper Lee's equally famous To Kill a Mockingbird....   [tags: Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essays]

Free Essays
523 words (1.5 pages)

Race Relations in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Essay

- Race Relations in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou The reasons listed by the censors for banning I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings do not explain the widespread controversy around the novel. There is reason to believe that the question of the novel is in its poignant portrayal of race relations. This explains why the novel has been most controversial in the South, where racial tension is historically worst, and where the novel is partially set. Therefore, understanding the blatant and subtle effects of racism on the young Marguerite help explain the censorship controversy, and the person she became....   [tags: Know Why Caged Bird Sings Essays Angelou]

Powerful Essays
773 words (2.2 pages)

Oppression in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

- Oppression in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou In the process of compiling the literary works I intended to include in this project, I began to notice a common thread that connected the works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry that I generally choose to read. That common tie that binds these books together is that they all seem to center, in one form or another, around the theme of oppression. Perhaps this is because I have some deep psychological need to diffuse the power struggles I experience within myself by gleaning insight from the pages of someone else’s experience....   [tags: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings]

Free Essays
995 words (2.8 pages)

Quest for Self-Determination in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Lakota Woman

- Quest for Self-Determination in I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Lakota Woman       During their growing up years, children struggle to find their personal place in society. It is difficult for children to find their place when they are given numerous advantages, but when a child is oppressed by their parents or grandparents, males in their life, and the dominant culture, the road to achieving self-identity is fraught with enormous obstacles to overcome. Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Mary Crow Dog's Lakota Woman depict the two women's "triumph over formidable social obstacles and [their] struggle to achieve a sense of identity and self-acceptance" (Draper 1)....   [tags: Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Essays]

Powerful Essays
2718 words (7.8 pages)