Literary Comparison Term Paper


¶ … Strength of the Human Spirit know why the Caged Bird Sings is an autobiography by Maya Angelou. It is the first book of the five volumes of the author's autobiography covering her life from the early 1930s up till 1970. This particular volume "I know why the Caged Bird Sings" is one of the most popular of the five volumes as it talks about her initial years as a child up to the time when she turns sixteen. The autobiography is based on her life as a black child, teenager and woman; it covers all elements of her family and their trials and tribulations. Although the book is based on Angelous' life, it basically talks about the development of the human self and the impact of various experiences in life on the strength of the human spirit. As Angelou herself describes the reason for writing this book "somebody needs to tell young people, listen, I did this and I did that. You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated."

The main character of this book is obviously Maya Angelou herself who spent her early years living with her grandmother Momma Henderson in a small in Arkansas. She owns a store in Arkansas. Other characters include her father Bailey Senior, her mother Vivian Baxter, her brother Bailey, her grandmother's crippled son Willie, the town pastor Reverend Thomas, Sister Monroe, Grandmother Baxter, Freeman who is her mother's boyfriend, her uncles and many more.

The core theme of the book is to highlight the difficulties faced by women especially a black woman in the American Society. It talks about the difficulties which Angelou and her family faced being black and highlights the extreme prejudice which prevailed during that time. The existence of racial prejudice was so intense that Maya as a child grew up thinking that beauty is only defined by the color "white" and that she was an ugly thing because of the fact that she was black. Her bitterness at being black is further strengthened by the various experiences she goes through over the years. She sees her Uncle Willie being ridiculed because he is not only black, but also crippled. She sees him enduring even more hardship than the rest of her family. She sees that prejudice is not only against race but against any form of appearance...


The autobiography highlights the impact of all experiences little or big that serve to strengthen Maya as an individual. She sees segregation not only socially but also economically, as none of her family members are able to acquire well-paid jobs and have always lives a life of misery. Maya also sees her parents abandoning herself and her brother and she sees herself searching for the love of her mother and father and developing a feeling of complete abandonment and betrayal.
Maya has a tough life. Her mother's boyfriend rapes her and she feels helpless, as she is unable to fight back Freeman or stand up for her rights. Not only is she black but she is a black female thus further limiting her rights as a human being. She sees it all as God's unfairness on her making her an ugly black thing and that too an ugly black female thing. One of the most important elements of her character is the way she silences herself from the world. She chooses not to speak and decides its better to remain silent than face the wrath of people. She isolates herself. However, she does successfully beat all the odds in her life; the prejudices, the abandonment, the rape, the torture, the isolation. All these strengthen her as a human being giving her the courage to move on and to fight.

The Diary of Anne Frank was written during the years ranging from 1942-44 while World War II was at its peak in Europe. It is based and written by a Dutch woman of German-Jewish origin and the youngest daughter of her parents. Her diary is written during this peak time of war when the Jews were being pursued by the Nazis and the Franks were under tremendous ordeal trying to save themselves from death. Every character's conclusion including Anne herself is highly depressing in this book. But once again the strength of character and of the human spirit…

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