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Marguerite (Maya) in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Character Analysis

From the beginning of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings to the ending of Mom & Me & Mom, Maya Angelou’s personality and qualities have changed and developed immensely. During Caged Bird, Maya is presented as a studious, inquisitive young girl, who has a passion for literature and schooling. She is also blaringly aware of the prejudice and discrimination present in the society around her because of her race. Through her time with her grandmother and her own mother, she is presented with hardworking women that influence her personality and work ethic.

Through the development of these personality traits, we see Maya grow to become the adult she is in Mom & Me & Mom. In Caged Bird, she states-. Not only does she recognize her own displacement early on, she sees the effects of racism all throughout Caged Bird, beginning with when Mr. Steward, a man who used to be a sheriff, comes to their house one night to warn their Uncle Willie.

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While there he tells Willie to lay because a couple of black men were accused of messing with a white lady, and the boys, who are assumed to be the Ku Klux Klan, will be riding through.

Willie is then made to hide under potatoes and onions to avoid being killed on the rampage being led. Secondly, she is faced with society’s discrimination head-on when Momma and she take a trip to she Dr. Lincoln because she has a couple of cavities. She states that Momma had a lot of favors owed to her by the doctor specifically because she let him buy food on loan from the Store during the depression, therefore she believes that he will treat them, so that they don’t have to go to Texarkana, the nearest black dentist, which is 25 miles away.

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However, when there, Dr. Lincoln shuts them down and down refuses to see her stating that he would rather stick his hand in a dog’s mouth than Maya’s. Lastly, one of the bigger encounters with prejudice that occurred in Stamps, happened when Bailey saw a dead man being pulled out of the pond, while there, a white man pulls the sheet off the dead body and pushes him from being on his back to on his stomach. After Bailey and Mr. Bubba put the man in the calaboose, the white man locks them in there, under the guise of being a joke. These instances described, as well as many more that weren’t, lead to Maya’s childhood and adult realization of how dangerous it can be to black, not only in the south but everywhere.

Additionally, the last instance, Bailey’s interaction with the white man and the dead body being pulled out of the river, caused Bailey and her to need to move away, for fear from their Momma that Bailey could be the next body to be found in the lake. This leads to her anger and anxiety surrounding raising her son in a bigoted world in Chapter 22 of Mom & Me & Mom. At the beginning of the chapter, she states-. Growing up as a black woman, she obviously knows how racism and bigotry affect the daily lives of men and women of color every day. She battled racism and discrimination all throughout her life, usually with her head held high, she becomes the first black women to become a conductorette by never taking no as an answer. However, she now has a son and after seeing the effects of racism specifically target the important men in her life at a young age, in the ways of hate groups or institutionalized racism, she now sees it as something that cannot be escaped. Beginning at the start of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya’s interest in schooling, literature, and poetry is explicitly expressed.

Even at a young age, Maya and Bailey have an interest in Shakespearean literature; wanting to act out his plays as a result. Then, when Bailey and her move to St. Louis with their mother she begins going to the library quite frequently. During her time there she writes,-. Even when she comes back from St. Louis after being raped by Mr. Freedman, her mother’s husband, she again finds rejoice and solace in the books she reads. This happens when Mrs. Bertha Flowers calls her to her house, gives her treats for Bailey and her, and tells her that she will give her A Tale of Two Cities, telling her that she must not only read it but, read it aloud. This was after her being raped by Mr. Freedman, when she only ever talked to Bailey, however after this meeting with Bertha Flowers, when she is told the importance of words and human dialect and inflection in stories. During this time Mrs. Berth Flowers tells her-. Then, as she ages, she again turns to literature and writing as a means to discuss, learn from, and cope with different parts of her life.

In the later chapters of Mom & Me & Mom, Maya Angelou is based in Stockholm as she begins directing her first screenplay. The story is one of an African American nightclub singer who is famous in Europe. In the chapter, she explains that she based the personality of the main character on Eartha Kitt. However, it is hard to ignore the parallelism of the plot and her own life, as a popular nightclub singer in California and her trips to Europe for Porgy and Bess. Though her initial trip to Europe for Porgy and Bess was hard for her, due to her feelings of abandoning Guy. She shows that even early on in her writing career she was writing about her own life in an attempt to make sense of and cope with it. During her time in stamps with her paternal grandmother, she is taught discipline, manners, and a strong work ethic. While they are there, even at a young age they are expected to stay clean and tidy, as well as, do multiple chores around the house including sometimes watching the Store. Bailey and she are both sent far away from their grandmother’s house to get food or run errands for their grandmother and uncle. They were expected to get chores, work, and any homework done before they could play or have fun. In Stamps, work was always revered as was a success.

The store that Momma owned was a product of hard work and determination, she is the only black woman to own a shop in that area. Even though the struggles of the Great Depression, Momma manages to keep the store open because she is frugal and flexible with her customers. While the rules may be laxer, a strong work ethic was also important when Maya moved to her mother’s house in California. Her mother owns several casinos and gambling places, stretching her time between them to keep workers in line and make sure that everything is done fairly. Even later on in life, in Mom & Me & Mom, Vivian works to become the first woman of color to be a seaman, again breaking grounds in business by working hard. She says she wants to join because,-. Maya shows this same hard work and determination throughout her own life. Not only when she is trying to break the glass ceiling like Vivian and Momma have, by becoming the first African American conductorette but, throughout the rest of her working adulthood. In Mom & Me & Mom, Maya takes many jobs, some out of necessity to stay afloat and some to further her future career.

Throughout each, she faces hardships and adversity but, works harder throughout each to get ahead doing whatever is necessary to get there. For example, when she is working in the nightclub, she gets a percentage of the alcohol sales that she contributes, and because of that she makes conversation and gets her patrons to buy the more expensive bottles because it benefits her. All in all, whether it be Momma’s or Vivian’s work influence, Maya learned a lot about hard work in her childhood carrying that over to her adulthood. From the young studious, hardworking, and socially aware child that is presented to us in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya grows over the years into the woman that we see at the end of Mom & Me & Mom. Throughout her youth and young adulthood, her personality is influenced not only by her mother and grandmother but also by the men and women in her community helping her see her full potential, as well as, the hatred in the world.

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Marguerite (Maya) in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Character Analysis. (2020, Oct 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/marguerite-maya-in-i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings-character-analysis-essay

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