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1. In this chapter, Maya and Bailey are introduced to the idea of being moved to California, this being because of Bailey’s incident with a murdered black man.
2.a) In this chapter Maya Angelou gives us some more insight on Mamma’s character, she establishes the reason for Mamma’s secretive and over-protective nature “Her African-bush secretiveness and suspiciousness had been compounded by slavery and confirmed by centuries of promises made and promises broken. We have a saying among Black Americans, which explains Mamma’s caution. ‘ If you ask a Negro where he’s been, he’ll tell you where he’s going’” (Angelou 164). In this paragraph Maya Angelou lets us know why Negroes at that time were so shielding of their privacy and how this related to Mamma telling them a ‘part truth’ to cover up the ‘real truth’ for them being sent away. Maya effectively develops Mamma through the situation that occurred when Bailey came home in horror “ ‘ When I passed the calaboose, some men had just fished him out of the pond. He was wrapped in a sheet, all rolled up like a mummy, and then a white man walked over and pulled the sheet off. The man was on his back but the white man struck his foot under the sheet and rolled him over on the stomach.’” (Angelou 167). Mamma’s instinct told her to get those kids out of there, no child should have to witness the atrocity of a murdered body. “ Whatever the real reason, The Truth, for taking us to California, I shall always think it lay mostly in an incident in which Bailey had the leading part” (Angelou 165). Mamma’s action to get the children away solidifies the readers faith in her as being a strong, powerful and caring individual.
c) A story that illustrates life in those times is Bailey’s incident by the river. This illustrates the racism and unfairness against Negroes, and the senseless violence against them.
“Then a white man walked over and pulled the sheet off. The man was on his back but the white man stuck his foot under the sheet and rolled him over on the stomach… My, he had no color at all. He was bloated like a ball.” (Angelou 167)
Any white person could kill a black person, and instead of being punished they were congratulated and given encouragement. Also, the black people had become desensitized so seeing their own people murdered since it was a frequent occurrence.
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e) This chapter illustrates the horrible circumstances in which the Black people in Stamps had to live in. They had to live in constant fear of their lives, especially males. Angelou achieves this by the way Momma takes action and gets the children out of Stamps before one of them gets hurt of killed unjustly. It was immediate action, the Black man in the river was the last straw and she was getting the children out as soon as possible. “ Momma prayed. ‘God rest his soul, poor man.’ I’m sure she began piecing the details of our California trip that night.” (Angelou 169) Bailey’s encounter with the dead Black man gave Mamma a reason to ship the children to California, a reason she willingly took.
3. The children are told a ‘part truth’; this being that the reason they are moving is because Uncle Willie is crippled, she is getting to old and that it is time. The real ‘truth’ of it is most likely linked to Bailey’s experience with the downed black man’s body.
“ She explained that we were growing up, that we needed to be with our parents, that Uncle Willie was, after all, crippled, that she was getting old. All true, and yet none of those truths satisfied our need for The Truth.” (Angelou 165) For better or worse, Maya could decipher the real truth. “What ever the real reason, The Truth, for taking us to California, I shall always think it lay mostly in an incident in which Bailey had the leading part.” (Angelou 165) This is the tactic that most Negroes used during this time period.
4.a) The most powerful image is the image of the dead black man wrapped up in the sheet, and the white man walking to him, and kicking him over. You can see this image very vividly and are moved by the horror and disgust of it. She used very good diction in describing it, and got her feeling across very well.
The man was dead and rotten. Not stinking but rotten... He was wrapped up in a sheet, all rolled up like a mummy, and then a white man walked over and pulled the sheet off. The man was on his back but the white man stuck his foot under the sheet and rolled him over on the stomach…He had no color at all. He was bloated like a ball…. The white man stood there, looking down and grinned (Angelou 167). By the white man kicking the dead black man, he delivers another kick of utter disrespect to the black race. Bailey was hurt to the bone by this, and we really felt his confusion and hurt.
b) This image makes us see the black man on the ground, and the sights and smells around him. We can feel the disgust and horror that Bailey felt when he saw this person on the ground, with white people laughing and joking is disrespect.
5.a) The most effective passage is when Maya explains how when Bailey and her were younger, when something bad happened, Bailey would just close up and become non-respondent. “He explained ‘when we were smaller that when things were very bad his soul just crawled behind his heart and curled up and went to sleep. When it awoke, the fearful thing had gone away.’” (Angelou 166)
b) This passage is so effective because it clearly states how when something is wrong with Bailey, his soul is vacant, and his heart is so filled with emotion, that his body literally shuts down. He hides his feelings until he ready to share them, and he has sorted things out.
6. To wind up, this chapter was important because it illustrated how life was to Black people back then, and how everyone had to be fearful of their lives. It also showed why Momma wanted to get the children out of Stamps, and the potential danger they lived in day to day. The situation was horrible, in Stamps, to a point that Black people were not ever stunned when they heard about another senseless murder of someone from their community. This chapter disgusted us when we read about the way the white man was happy with the killing of the black man, almost like it was a trophy to hang on his wall.