Maya Angelou's I Know Why Thesis

Length: 7 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Literature Type: Thesis Paper: #14667713 Related Topics: Infant Observation, Unconditional Love, Growing Up, Love
Excerpt from Thesis :

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


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…

Sources Used in Documents:

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 Bird Sings." Women's Studies, no. 34 (2005), pp. 359-75.

Pollard, Ingrid. "Review: Maya Angelou." Feminist Review, no. 17 (Autumn 1984), pp. 115-7.

Cite this Document:

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why" (2009, February 05) Retrieved November 29, 2021, from

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why" 05 February 2009. Web.29 November. 2021. <>

"Maya Angelou's I Know Why", 05 February 2009, Accessed.29 November. 2021,

Related Documents
Maya Angelou Attained International Fame in 1969
Words: 1992 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 71828043

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 Summary of Five
Words: 2668 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 64024729

Angelou understands that part of her role is to be a leader (which encompasses more than the idea of "role model" although it certainly parallels it in many ways this idea) by asking others to be attentive to language. For example, in an interview for the Paris Review, she said: When I'm writing, I am trying to find out who I am, who we are, what we're capable of, how we

Maya Angelou and Jay Gatsby
Words: 886 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 13140776

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

Role Model Maya Angelou the
Words: 724 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Family and Marriage Paper #: 97659167

Additionally she has time to lecturer and mentor students. This approach to one's career is very inspiring. She is doing what she wants to do. This of course did not occur overnight; she clawed her way through difficulty and discouragement to be able to experience the sweet taste of success. Maya Angelou also has a generous side to her personality and regularly gives money to charitable organizations and worthy

Education Both Maya Angelou and
Words: 1550 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Teaching Paper #: 94233364

What school integration and political correctness have accomplished pales in comparison to the continued harm inflicted on students through class-based educational tracking. Moreover, Angelou in particular points out that some schools in America are inherently underprivileged. The Lafayette County Training School "distinguished itself by having neither lawns or hedges, nor tennis court, nor climbing ivy," (17). The all-Black school was in disrepair, its students cut off from the sources

Angelou's Book "I Know Why the Caged
Words: 2217 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Literature Paper #: 82098858

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