Lorde’s trip to Washington, and Angelou’s relationship with Mrs. Flowers, are crucial episodes which shape Lorde’s and Angelou’s views of the world around them and define their own self-images and identities. Lorde and Angelou come to these encounters in different frames of mind, are deeply influenced by others and come away with altered self-images.
Lorde and Angelou are at contrasting periods in their lives and have different frames of mind at the time of these crucial encounters. Lorde is an eighth grade graduate, who is on the threshold of adolescence. Her trip is a graduation gift and she embarks on it in a spirit of hope and excitement: Washington D.C. is “the fabled and famous capital of our country” (Lorde, 239). This is her first day-time trip on a train and she looks forward to it. The family makes elaborate preparations for the trip and “packed for a week” (Lorde, 239). There is a sense of excitement and the happy ambience of a picnic, complete with roast chicken, cakes and peaches. Lorde spends her “afternoon squinting up at monuments to freedom and past presidencies and democracy” (Lorde, 241). She is very much a normal schoolgirl, confident and secure in the bonds of her family, prepared to enjoy her trip. On the other hand, Angelou comes to the encounter with Mrs. Flowers deeply scarred by her earlier rape. As a result of this, she refuses to talk to anybody except her brother, Bailey, and retreats into a cocoon of silence. She is listless and admits that “For nearly a year, I sopped around the house, the Store, the school, and the church, like an old biscuit, dirty and inedible” (Angelou, ). She is a little girl of about nine and is desperately shy. When Mrs. Flowers asks her to accompany her home, Angelou “hung back in the separate unasked and unanswerable questions” (Angelou, ). Haunted by her trauma, Angelou cuts herself off from intercourse. Lorde and