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The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou Essay

This novel is the autobiographical description of a young African American girl growing up in the South. She was left with her grandmother Annie along with her older brother Bailey while her parents went their own ways. She experienced segregation, discrimination, rape and molestation. Towards the end she became pregnant by a boyfriend, yet still completes high school. The story ends with her sleeping close to her new born son. Through all of these things, she learned that to be a black female you have to be strong.

Obviously, a major theme that is addressed throughout the story is racism. She has observed her grandmother experience it and she experienced it herself. Her thoughts on how to deal with ‘white folks’ was less passive than she felt her grandmother’s approach was. Another theme was displacement. As a descendant of slaves, she felt that she, among many other African Americans, are struggling to find their place in this society. Her opening line: “What you looking at me for? I didn’t come to stay…” reflects that she feels like she doesn’t belong where she is, and is on her way to where she does belong.

African American dialect is used throughout the book, particularly in dialogue. She tells the story in first person and gives her commentary on the events of her life as well as descriptions of the significant occurrences of her life. The novel had a conversational style, as if she was in the room talking to you. She reflects on her memories and describes her emotions, and the effect certain situations had on later events in her life.  It seems to be a chronological account.

It is evident that she believes that blacks should stand up for themselves. This is a society where there are many disadvantages for African Americans, but the challenges can be overcome with strength. She views life as a passing journey with lesson after lesson to be learned along the way.


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