I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou Analysis

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To understand the purpose of life, it must live to its fullest potential. Before becoming an author, activist, and a performer, Maya Angelou overcame many obstacles in her life. Born as an African American in 1928, she was raised during an unyielding time of racial oppression. Many of her works talk about love and segregation, but, her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, is what she is truly known for. Having witnessed and experienced the injustice placed on colored people, Angelou developed an identity crisis, devaluing herself as a, “too-big Negro Girl” (Angelou 4); however, she refrained from fully believing that a life of conforming to a certain society’s standards is inescapable. While Angelou’s autobiography reveals a hard …show more content…
During this time, blacks were free from being considered property, but, not from social restraints. To live in such a time of oppression, caused confusion in Angelou’s childhood years. With the way blacks were treated, she resented her life. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou opens her memoir with her as a five to seven year old child at church, reciting “the words to an Easter rhyme that begins, ‘What you looking at me for?’” (Hunter 3). This line refers to a fantasy of her duel self; a sweet little white girl, hidden under the ugly disguise of her brown skin. Angelou viewed her appearance as a mistake, blaming it on her cruel fairy stepmother who must have turned her into a gap-toothed “Negro girl, with nappy hair, [and] broad feet” out of jealousy for her beauty (Mickle 56). As she lived in the torment of having to hide her real self, she dreams that one day, everyone would be surprise when she wakes up from her “black ugly dream, and my real hair, which was long and blonde…My light blue eyes were going to hypnotize them… I was really white” (56). Without the ability to truly live freely, Angelou struggled to find her identity as a person with African American blood. Her restrictions to find her true self is metaphorically presented as a caged bird that looks up longingly wanting to feel the freedom of …show more content…
If the bars on Angelou’s cage were the custom etiquettes made for blacks, the lock that kept her secured in there, consisted of her family’s fear of lynching. Whites feared that “freedom for African Americans came the threat of competition for political and economic power previously enjoyed… by whites [only]” (Wallace 25-26). Since whites could no longer detain colored people as slaves, they created an aura of social control by using the method of lynching. To have a close family member suddenly taken because of a simple miss step, haunted the lives of many blacks. They especially had no real protection as officers would participate in it as well. In order to save themselves and their family, they had to follow the social regulations given to them by whites, however, the shackles imposed on the blacks were tight, not giving them much room to live. This lifestyle took its toll on the black’s mentality as it made them wonder the meaning of life and question why such deep hatred was targeted towards them. Angelou explains in her autobiography that when “one sees the traumatic fear and humiliation…lynching inspires…one understands that to resist the racial status quo was to risk death” (Wallace 26). Despite the warnings from her grandma, Angelou tried multiple times to push the boundaries set by the white society. In one instance where Angelou dared to defy the

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