Maya Angelou's I Know Why essay

Download this essay in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from essay:

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the importance with which Maya viewed this incident, saying "If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help. It would all be true, the accusations that we were lower types of human beings. Only a little higher than the apes" (Angelou, Chapter 19).

This is not the only time that violence and black males are associated in the novel, nor the only time that such an association has an impact on Maya's character and outlook on life. One day, her brother Bailey comes home after first witnessing the body of a black man pulled from a pond, then being forced to help load the body in a truck and humiliated by the white man instructing him, finally asking, "Uncle Willie, why do they hate us so much?'" (Angelou, Chapter 25). Maya's understanding of race and identity is largely constructed by these random yet pervasive incidents, almost all of them involving males more than females, if not exclusively. Ingrid Pollard contends that this incident leaves Maya with a fear of "the threat of death to the men in her family," further complicating her relationship with the other men in her life and perhaps having a large effect on her ability to form relationships later in life (Pollard, 115). Bailey's importance to Maya shows itself again in this later scene in the book, demonstrating that his impact on her life has not diminished much over the years.

It would be wrong, of course, to insist that the only relationships of any significance in Angelou's life were with men. Her relationship with her mother grew stronger when she lived with her, and she always appreciated her mother's commitment to fairness and honesty, even when being otherwise irrational (Angelou, Chapter 26). Also, Maya was raised by her grandmother, whom she and Bailey call Momma, and this very strong figure in the black community of Stamps instilled many qualities of strength and wisdom in Maya. But the masculine influences on Maya might have been stronger than her grandmother's; at one point Maya makes a stand against some white people and Momma hears about it: "Maya's headstrong, principled stand may seem correct in a fair world but Stamps was not that. There were too many risks in such a stand for her Momma..." (Pollard, 116). Momma ends up sending Maya back to live with her mother for fear of what her attitude will do in the Stamps community. So although there are strong female influences in Maya's life, they end up just as disconnected and with apparently less influence than the male influences.

There are two important male figures that come into Maya's life towards the end of the book, however. The first of these is Daddy Cidell, a successful and kind man who marries Maya's mother and moves the family to San Francisco. Though Daddy Cidell is not very well educated, his intelligence, kindness, and lack of either arrogance or humility draw Maya to him. Though his entrance into her life comes a little too late and after too much incident to make him a full father figure, his influence on her character is still huge, leading her to the observation that "The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination, as are intelligence and necessity when unblunted by formal education." (Angelou, Chapter 29).

The second and perhaps most important male figure in all of Maya Angelou's life is her son, born shortly after her graduation from high school. Her relationship with Guy's father was basically non-existent, though at least it was not violent, but the love she eventually learned to show to her son shows how she was finally able to overcome the detached relationships of her life and find the love she always wanted. The male influences in Maya's life made her wary, but also strong and capable of great emotions. Her son taught her to trust them.

Works Cited

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Bantam, 1983.

Manora, Yolanada M. "What You Lookin' at Me for? I Didn't Come to Stay': Displacement, Disruption, and Black Female Subjectivity in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged…[continue]

Cite This Essay:

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why" (2009, February 05) Retrieved November 28, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/maya-angelou-i-know-why-25045

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why" 05 February 2009. Web.28 November. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/maya-angelou-i-know-why-25045>

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why", 05 February 2009, Accessed.28 November. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/maya-angelou-i-know-why-25045

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Angelou s Book I Know Why the Caged

    Angelou's book "I Know why the Caged Bird Sings' was written, according to its author, to serve as a certain purpose and this purpose can be glimpsed in its language. As the poet and critic Opla Moore (1999) remarked, the Caged Bird was intended to demonstrate, at a time, when these issues were just beginning to come into that open and when Blacks were still struggling for recognition, that rape

  • Know Why the Caged Bird Sings One

    Know Why the Caged Bird Sings One of the lasting moments in Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the explicit rape scene in the novel. In the story, the young narrator is raped by her mother's boyfriend. This moment in the book has been mislabeled as a form of child pornography, but anyone reading the story can testify that this is not a moment told in

  • Know Why the Caged Bird

    This attempt at banning this book cannot be seen as anything but another example of prejudice and racism, this time against a woman who is attempting to share her life and warn other young girls at the same time. Probably one of the most eye-opening parts of the book is when Angelou acknowledges that for decades, blacks in the South acquiesced to whites simply to survive, and they taught these

  • Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou s

    Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been widely classified as an African-American autobiography, which chronicles the experiences of a young, black girl in the America of the 1930s. While undoubtedly the work is a valuable contribution to the genre of African-American history, describing as it does the plight of black women living during a time of racial and sexual oppression, it

  • Maya Angelou Attained International Fame in 1969

    Maya Angelou attained international fame in 1969 with the publication of her first book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; however, the seeds of her acclaim were planted long before. Raised primarily by her grandmother in Arkansas, Maya attributed her first important lessons to the woman she affectionately calls "Momma." With those lessons and other hard-earned knowledge, Maya progressed from being a victim of racism and sexual brutality with

  • Maya Angelou and Jay Gatsby

    Maya Angelou and Jay Gatsby The two works of art are similar in many aspects though they also hold quite a number of differences when it comes to the characters and the themes covered in the works. Maya Angelou's work is more of an autobiography since it tells of the life experience of the character called Marguerite's also called "My" or "Maya" and the challenges that she undergoes. This character is highly

  • Know Why the Caged Bird

    Maya Angelou has several points in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her primary point involves both the strength and the beauty in inherent to the human spirit. Despite all adversity, her book and life story stresses, greatness can still be accomplished. It is impossible to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings without a sense of what the girl in the book would become; not only does


Read Full Essay
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved