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Maya Angelou's Work I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings - Essay Example

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Maya Angelou's Work I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings

She eventually comes to the realization of her self-worth despite the many problems and instability that she has faced along her life. The book makes an effective presentation of the racism and segregation that blacks faced and the effect that the racism had on them. In the discussion, the imagery of the caged bird becomes evident. The choice of the title comes from the poem ‘Sympathy’. The title of the book serves to attract the reader to get to know the reason behind the singing by a bird that has already been caged. It also serves to remind the reader that in a racist community, there is always the risk that one may be deprived off their freedom or lose control over their situation. The caged bird in the book therefore comes to represent the different black people who have to confront racism on a daily basis yet succeed in keeping hope intact (Hagen 55). From a young age, Maya is confronted by the racist thoughts that are prevalent in her community. She is made to internalize the idea that being white with blond hair means that one is beautiful. She feels that she does not fit this description of beauty (she is fat and black) and she therefore goes through life considering herself an ugly child. While living at Arkansas, the community is segregated to the point where Maya wonders if white people truly exist as she does not come into contact with them. This means that at this age, the kind of racism that she is exposed to is not obvious, as she is not in contact with the whites. Just like a caged bird, Maya is trapped in a cage of negative self-image and a poor sense of self-worth, which are as a result of the exposure that she has received from the community (Nelson 18). At the beginning of the book, Maya makes the assertion that being aware of the displacement as a child was like having a razor placed at her throat. This comes from the awareness that she lacked a sense of belonging as a child. The awareness of the displacement that she faced made things worse for her as she could not associate with other children who she felt looked different from her. As Maya grows up, she is confronted with the harsh reality of racism. This is the racism that is obvious and directed to her as a young black woman. Examples of this racism can be seen when she is employed in a place where her white boss calls her Mary instead of Maya. This was a tendency by the with racists to call African names that sounded ‘white’. The whites also do this as a way of minimizing or negating the black person. She also visits a white dentist who refuses to treat her because she is black. During her graduation from the eight grade, one of the white speakers gives a racially condescending speech that shows the extent of racism in the society (Page 5). As a child, Maya sought escape from the harsh reality of racism by escaping into a world of fantasy. When Momma asks her to stand outside the white dentist’s office after he refuses to treat her, Maya imagines her mother having some sort of magical power and punishing the dentist. She even imagines that the dentist’s nurse is turned into a sack of food for the chicken. Maya has therefore created a fantasy world in which she can escape to when confronted with situations of racism (Bloom & Angelou 42). In the book, many characters attempt to show their resistance for racism. This resistance is shown in the different ways ...Show more


Instructor: An Argumentative essay using Maya Angelou's work, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” I know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a book by the famous poet Maya Angelou. The book is in an autobiographical format and it explains the pain of growing up as an African American girl in a racist community…
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Maya Angelous Work I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings essay example
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