I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Cages

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings: Cages

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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.

            A major "cage" from Maya Angelou's youth was that she was black in a prejudice southern town.  Maya has recounted in her book the times when she was discriminated against.  When she was working for a white woman named Mrs. Viola Cullinan, Mrs. Cullinan started calling her Mary, "That's [Margaret] too

long.  She's Mary from now on."(pp.91) One of the most important aspects of a person is their name.  It is a great insult for someone to change your name, without your consent.  If Maya was white Mrs. Cullinan would not have changed her name and she did it only because of her racist friends and attitudes.  Even some of the white adults who supposedly supported her had hidden their racist messages in seemingly nice speeches.  Maya conveys the words of Mr. Edward Donleavy, one of the people in the masquerade, "The white kids were going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins, and our boys (the girls weren't even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owenses and Joe Lousises."(pp.151)  Maya was forced to listen to Mr. Donleavy's stereotypes of how white children could be thinkers and black children can only be athletes. 

            What was supposed to be an encouraging speech, which Mr. Donleavy probably thought was sincere, turned out to be just another racist and stereotypical speech.  Perhaps it was not so much Mr. Donleavy's fault, because he was trying to be nice, but more of his upbringing.  Racism was the most prominent of Maya's "cages" and it is probably due to the society and ignorant ideas.

            The second major cage of  Maya Angelou was that she has a very strict, religious, and overbearing grandmother.  It is important that a child's guardian be caring and strict but that guardian should not be too strict.

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  After coming back from Mrs. Flowers' house bringing Bailey some cookies, Maya is disciplined by momma, "I repeated, 'I said, Bailey by the way, Mrs. Flowers sent you-' [Momma responds] 'Thats what I thought you said.  Go on and take off your dress.  I'm going to get a switch."(pp.85)  Maya's grandmother was punishing Maya for just using a common day phrase that seems to be a little harsh.  Maya's grandmother was trying to raise her well but what she did could actually do the opposite of what was intended.  Just when she was making progress getting out of her depression and taking a step forward with Mrs. Flowers, the punishment may have actually made Maya take a step back.  Another thing that Momma does, to try to do help Maya but was actually doing the opposite was when, "If they [feet] weren't clean enough for her, she took the switch and woke up the offender with a few aptly place burning reminders."(pp.21)  A switching for dirty feet seems to be a little extreme.  Again she was trying to do good but in turn may be doing the opposite by being too severe in punishing for a small offense.  It is important to be clean, but a switching because of not being clean is just a little harsh.  The punishment must fit the offense and this punishing could do more harm than good though it may not be momma's fault but that of her time and  heritage.  Maya's grandmother being too strict, even though she meant good, was a factor that keeps Maya from achieving. 

            Maya Angelou was not the only person who has cages, I also also have them.  My "cage" is a fairly common one; my young age.  Age is a barrier that stops me from doing things many adult things.  Many times I suggest things to my parents, but sometimes they do not respect my opinions.  I feel that if I were an adult my suggestions and opinions would be handled with more respect and have more validity. 

            Many people do not listen to ideas of a young person, thinking that he or she does not understand, even I sometimes have done this with younger kids.  Many people equate youth with immaturity, which is sometimes true but is not always true.  This is somewhat similar, but not as severe, as the experience that Maya had with Mr. Donleavy, being caught in a stereotype.  Another time that I was held back because of my age is with a certain radio talk show that does not let children call.  I had tried to call in but I still could not get on the air with all of my debating with him.  This talk show host is segregating children because on again a stereotype of children being immature and does not have knowledge on things of the world.  He is just another adult that thinks young people are all the same.  Age is a big problem with its stereotypes and could be a "cage" with either being too old or too young.

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