Caged Bird

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"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings"

Maya Angelou, in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells her story of how and when she grew up. In Arkansas at the time of Maya Angelou's childhood, many things were looked upon as bad or unfavored. Maya's problem was that she was black and a woman. Her novel depicts her life in rural Stamps, Arkansas with her grandmother and in St. Louis, Missouri, where her mother resided. At the age of three Maya and her four-year old brother, Bailey, were turned over to the care of their paternal grandmother in Stamps. Southern life was filled with humiliation, violation, and displacement. These actions were exemplified for blacks by the fear of the Ku Klux Klan, racial separation of the town, and the many incidents in belittling blacks. In the world Maya grows up in, beauty is narrowly defined as being white, with blond hair and blue eyes. Maya believes as a child that being black means being ugly, and thinks of her appearance as a "black ugly dream" that she will wake out of. Whether prejudice is a result of race or appearance, it definitely has an effect on the lives of Maya and her family. Maya and her friends and relatives will always be subject to prejudice merely because they are black. Despite the fact, they made the best of it. "Ritie, don't worry 'cause you ain't pretty. Plenty pretty women I see digging ditches or worse. You smart. I swear to god, I rather you have a good mind than a cute behind." (Angelou, 67) In Stamps, segregation meant social, economic, and political inferiority for its black citizens. The policies of segregation basically set the boundaries on their lives, assuring that they will never be able to make ends meet or gain well-paying jobs, or be able to mix with white people as equals when they are in the town. At one time, Maya had a bad tooth and her grandmother took her to a white dentist in town. The white dentist refused to help Maya because, as he stated, "my policy is I'd rather...
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